The Hilton Head Voell reunion water rocket contest blasted off using our soda bottle rocket plans from MAKE 05 – here’s a recap from Tony and pictures from the event!Rocketgroup2




“No, we don’t have to carry water to the beach. We can get it out of the ocean.” This was my comment to the kids offering to help haul the launch equipment. Of course this was forgetting that near-shore ocean water contains suspended sand which is not friendly to pop bottles sliding up a launch pipe. That was the first encounter with the “Beach Factors” impact on launching during our July 12 event.

The second run-in came when the air tubing popped off from the bicycle pump and then from the bottom of the launching stem. This was a vivid reminder that 95 degree temperatures soften plastic tubing. I guess we were over-confident after a dozen successful launches in Schuylerville and Buffalo, N.Y. and Frederick, M.D.

After getting a supply of fresh water, rinsing and putting Vaseline on the launching pole and reattaching the tubing, we successfully launched several diverse rockets. However, there was my daughter Katie’s rocket “the flying Cucumber ” which would prove to be the only 2-liter pop bottle which didn’t fit the ½” pvc launch pipe. We just threw that one in the air.

Some rockets soared 300 feet, then fell like arrows and buried their nose cones in the sand. Others tumbled, had fins and nose cones fall off. The most innovative was the grass skirt design formed with palmetto branches taped around the bottom which trailed behind as the rocket made its short but impressive flight.

On the last launch, the bicycle pump operator, an adventurous nephew, increased the pressure to 83 pounds from the 70 pounds used on other launches. This sent my, Mr. Hayhurst design, parachute-carrying rocket to new heights. The nose cone came off – as planned. The rocket fell away – not as planned. And as we all stood and cheered the parachute carrying the nose cone (a dollar store funnel) floated ever farther away, over the tree line, over the roof of one of the multi-million dollar mansions – never to be recovered.

Thanks “Make” for giving us the launcher plans that made it all possible.

-Tony Voell – Tonawanda, New York