On the heels of the NASA launch of Artemis I to circle the moon, Upper School Advanced Physics students launched their own rockets. These students got hands-on experience with the scientific concepts of force, velocity, acceleration, impulse, momentum, energy and more in the annual Rocket Launch.
Prior to launch day, students worked in groups to complete conceptual analysis and theoretical calculations on the physics-related characteristics of the rocket launch, using the mass measurements and thrust profile of the rocket engines. Many students also decorated their crafts to visually distinguish them from those of their peers.
On launch day, each section of students transported the launch pad, safety materials and rocket to mid-field for a final safety check. Students then activated a digital altimeter/accelerometer before inserting it into the rocket’s body, lowering their rocket on the launch pad and hooking up their rocket’s engine to the ignition controller. Preceding each student’s launch was a countdown as rockets ascended into the sky.
Students retrieved their rockets following launch and used the data collected by the altimeter/accelerometer to finish the lab report and fuel a discussion on the difference between the theoretical calculations and the values measured by the sensor aboard each rocket.
Describing what he enjoys about this lab, Upper School Science teacher George Austin shared, “This activity takes the physics calculations outside the controlled environment of the classroom so the data taken is no longer constrained to small velocities, displacements and accelerations. Students also get the opportunity to evaluate and calculate complicated quantities, such as air resistance, using the data from the onboard avionics.
“Nothing beats the sheer exhilaration students feel when the rockets they built themselves shoot up hundreds of feet into the air, and they can understand the physics of how and why this works.”