Scroll To Top

agpa k-12 outreach banner

Professional Development Modules
Return to the Professional Development Module Index
Printer Friendly Version

Water Bottle Rocket Fun

Grades: 5-8
Author: Tess Ewart


Abstract

Module Description

As a result of the presenter-conducted in-service, participants will become familiar with the use of simulations in the classroom. The simulation used will allow the user to change variables affecting the flight of a water rocket. Participants will design a lesson that will use a simulation in their classroom.


Objectives

  • Participants will discuss the merits of running a simulation then testing the findings in their classrooms.
  • Participants will compare the effects of gravity from different planets on the flight of a rocket.
  • Participants will design and implement in their classrooms a lesson using a simulation.

Goals:

  • Participants will plan and use a simulation in the classroom.
  • Participants will discuss the merits of running a simulation then testing the findings in their classrooms.
  • Participants will explain the physics concepts behind motion, forces and the transfer of energy.

Materials

  • Elton John's Rocket Man.
  • Computers with Water Bottle Rocket Fun software loaded.
  • Preprinted graphs or a computer printer at the session.

Procedures

Engagement

  • To get the participants into the mindset of rockets and space travel, play Elton John's song, Rocket Man. Have the participants do a quick write on how they would feel to be an astronaut going into space. What would they be concerned about and why?
  • Have the participants share their top 3 concerns and record everyone's choices. After tallying the choices, what concerns were shared by the majority of the participants? (food, fuel, air or life support, etc.) Why would these be common concerns? (address most of the necessities of life)
  • Ask the participants what factors would affect the flight of the rocket? (mass and size of rocket, amount of fuel, amount of gravity, atmospheric pressure, etc.) How would the amount of gravity affect a rocket's flight? (all answers should be given with the reasoning behind them).
  • Tell the participants they will be using a computer program to investigate the effects the force of gravity has on the flight of a rocket. Specifically, they will be using the rocket's kinetic energy, potential energy, velocity and height (altitude) to determine the effects of gravity.

Assessment: Informally check to see what effect the participants think gravity will have on the rocket's flight.

Exploration

(For this section, the presenter could choose to give the participants specific data for water amount and bottle pressure or let the participants choose the data they think would give the best (highest) flight for the rocket.)

  • Get into groups of two or three at a computer. Start the Water Bottle Rocket Fun computer simulation.
  • Enter the data for water amount and bottle pressure you think would have the best (highest) flight for the rocket on planet Earth.
  • Graph the height vs. time, both kinetic energy and potential energy vs. time, and velocity vs. time. Print them for comparison with each other and with another planet. (The program does not allow you to copy and paste the graphs into a word document. If the water amount and bottle pressure data are given to the participants, the presenter may want to print the graphs out before the in-service.)
  • What similarities do you notice between the four measurement graphs for Earth? (Kinetic energy and velocity graphs look similar, potential energy and altitude (height) graphs look similar. Velocity is used to calculate kinetic energy and height is used to calculate potential energy so they should be similar).

Assessment: Participants' comparisons of graphs.

Explanation

(The presenter could assign groups different planets to investigate and share out at the end of the in-service. If the presenter chooses to have all the groups use the same planet, Jupiter has the greatest force of gravity out of all the planets and Pluto has the least. These would give a nice comparison for Earth. The presenter will have to consider the abilities of the participants when deciding. The directions in this module will focus on Jupiter as a basis of comparison to Earth.)

  • Use the same data for water amount and bottle pressure you are testing on Earth and enter those values for Jupiter. Print out the same three graphs as before (height vs. time, both kinetic and potential energy vs. time and velocity vs. time) for the planet Jupiter. (The presenter may want to have these graphs printed out and copied for the participants beforehand. This would ensure there is not a mix up in graphs at the session since the name of the planet does not appear on the graphs.)
  • Looking at the graphs for Earth and Jupiter, what do you notice? (All graphs are similar in shape but with different numbers. On Earth, the rocket had a faster velocity, reached a higher altitude, had a longer flight time, and a higher amount of kinetic energy but a lower amount of potential energy when compared to Jupiter.)
  • Ask the participants for why the potential energy was lower on Earth when compared to Jupiter but the other values were higher. (Since the force of gravity is less on Earth than Jupiter, there would be less potential energy. Recall the formula GPE = mass X gravity X height. However, with less gravity on Earth than Jupiter, the rocket would experience less resistance so it would have a higher velocity. This would result in a higher altitude, longer flight time and higher kinetic energy. Recall KE = ½ mass X velocity2.

Assessment: Explanation for why Jupiter produced different flight results of the same data when compared to Earth.

Elaboration

  • Have the participants predict what the graphs of a rocket's kinetic energy, potential energy, velocity and altitude (height) for each planet would be compared to Earth (higher or lower) given the force of gravity for each planet. The reasons for their predictions should be given as well. (For planets with a lower force of gravity than Earth, the gravitational potential energy would be lower and all other values would be higher than Earth. For planets with a higher force of gravity than Earth, the gravitational potential energy would be greater and all other values would be lower than Earth.)
  • The participants should then run the flight simulation to determine if their predictions were correct.

Assessment: Prediction of rocket flight results for each planet.

Classroom Implementation

  • Have the group discuss the benefits of running a simulation in the classroom. Brainstorm ideas and ways of adapting a simulation for the classroom as a group.
  • The participants should complete a lesson plan template for a computer simulation that addresses grade level content indicators for use in their classroom. See Teacher handout.
  • Further and on-going collaboration among participants should be encouraged.

Rationale

Many scientific models are difficult or impossible to observe, or are so complex that they are difficult to study in the laboratory or sometimes logistics, cost, or safety issues prevent teachers from placing children in real-life situations to study. In these situations, simulations permit guided exploration by students of the variations of the system and lead to better conceptual understanding and achievement, and appear to increase students' problem solving and process skills (Bodzin et al, 2000; The Science Teacher), (Weld, 1999; Phi Delta Kappan).


Science Standards

Content, Technology, and Professional Development:

NSES CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of motions and forces.

NSES CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of the transfer of energy.

NSES CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop abilities of technological design.

NSES CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understandings about science and technology.

NETS #6: (Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools)Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions. Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD A:Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry. Science learning experiences for teachers must:

  • Involve teachers in actively investigating phenomena that can be studied scientifically, interpreting results, and making sense of findings consistent with currently accepted scientific understanding.
  • Address issues, events, problems, or topics significant in science and of interest to participants.
  • Introduce teachers to scientific literature, media, and technological resources that expand their science knowledge and their ability to access further knowledge.
  • Build on the teacher's current science understanding, ability, and attitudes.
  • Incorporate ongoing reflection on the process and outcomes of understanding science through inquiry.
  • Encourage and support teachers in efforts to collaborate.

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD B:Professional development for teachers of science requires integrating knowledge of science, learning, pedagogy, and students; it also requires applying that knowledge to science teaching. Learning experiences for teachers of science must:

  • Connect and integrate all pertinent aspects of science and science education.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Simulation

Time Frame

Two - three hours based on variations in the procedures selected by the facilitator (see procedures section).


Preparation

Run the computer simulation before the in-service to determine what data the participants will be using. The presenter may want to print the needed graphs out and label them prior to the in-service as well.


Safety

N/A


Assessments

None available for this module.


Explanation of Science

Motion is caused when a force (push or pull) is applied to an object. A force opposite to motion is called resistance. Gravity opposes a rocket's flight since it is in the opposite direction. This force works to slow the rocket down. If the force of gravity on a planet is less than on Earth, the rocket would have less resistance to it and would reach a higher velocity on that planet. A higher velocity would allow the rocket to reach a higher altitude and have a longer flight time. Since the amount of kinetic energy the rocket has will be determined in part by the rocket's velocity (KE = 1/2 mv2{1/2 mass X velocity2}), the kinetic energy will also be higher. Gravitational potential energy is determined in part by the force of gravity (GPE = mgh {mass X gravity X height}). On a planet with a lower force of gravity than Earth, the gravitational potential energy of the rocket will be less.

If the force of gravity on a planet is greater than on Earth, the rocket would experience more resistance and would reach a lower velocity on that planet. A lower velocity would cause the rocket to reach a lower altitude and have a shorter flight time. Since the amount of kinetic energy the rocket has will be determined in part by the rocket's velocity (KE = ½ mv2 {½ mass X velocity2}), the kinetic energy will also be lower. Gravitational potential energy is determined in part by the force of gravity (GPE = mgh {mass X gravity X height}). On a planet with a greater force of gravity than Earth, the gravitational potential energy of the rocket will be greater.


Handouts

N/A


Extensions

Construct a 2 L bottle rocket. Use the same data numbers for water amount and bottle pressure that was used in the computer simulation. How do the results for your constructed rocket compare to the computer simulation? Describe the processes affecting your constructed rocket's flight.


Lesson Implementation Template

Download Lesson Implementation Template: Word Document or PDF File


Equity

Issues to consider are the following: seating so everyone can see the display and make sure every person participates in discussions. Classroom implementation of this simulation would include the above issues as well as the following: printed copies of graphs for ease of comparison, grouping with diversity in mind, smaller groups per computer for simulation.


Resources

You can download the Water Bottle Rocket Fun software at: http://www.seeds2learn.com/rocketSoftware.html


References

http://www.seeds2learn.com/rocketSoftware.html

K. Owens, U. of Akron