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We’re excited to bring to you our special summer kids video miniseries, Sylvia’s Super Awesome Mini Maker Show!

Subscribe to the MAKE Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v video directly, or watch it on YouTube, Blip.tv, and Vimeo.

Episode 1: Rockets

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By James (TechNinja) and Sylvia

Did you know you could be a rocket scientist in just one day? Well, a hobby rocket scientist anyways! The field of hobby rocketry is huge, ranging from $5 mini starters to multi-thousand dollar custom-made giants that can fly thousands and thousands of feet. Today we’ll show you enough to get you up in the air and crashing in no time!

From the hobby store, you’ll need a complete launch kit (launch pad w/launch rod & launch controller) plus a few size C-6 rocket engines and electric ignitors (the engines usually come in a pack of three, with safety plugs and ignitors). We could make some of these parts, but for safety, it’s best to buy your first set. The only thing left is to build the rocket body itself. For that, we’ll need:

  • White school glue
  • Thick legal-size construction paper, or any other type of paper about that size
  • Small strip of of cardboard, about 2″ long
  • A long cylinder or rod about 3/4″ in diameter. Anything from a dowel to a broom handle
  • Thin plastic drinking straw
  • File folder or fancy card stock
  • Some stickers, markers, and other crafty things to decorate the rocket with
  • Paperclip (optional) to help secure the rocket engine
  • Some not too sticky masking or painters tape

First, take your paper and wrap it nice and tight around your cylinder against a flat table while you glue. Use tape to secure it if needed. Use the card stock to cut out three to four fins, and glue them on evenly around the rocket body (or fuselage). You can add more if you want, just go crazy! The minimum number of fins should be four, but there’s no real maximum (within reason). We added four more tiny ones above the main fins on one of our rockets.

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The entire assembly has to stay on the cylinder to dry completely overnight (otherwise there’s a risk of the fuselage warping as it dries). Once it’s dry, roll up some card stock to make the nose cone and glue it on. Just be sure and trim off any excess nose cone paper to allow the launch rod to attach freely. Now draw a straight line down the fuselage and glue on two pieces of drinking straw for launch lugs.

To make sure your rocket engine doesn’t fly out through your nose cone when it launches, roll the cardboard into a tight circle, coat it in glue and use an engine to push it into the fuselage just far enough to have a tiny lip of engine sticking out. To ensure the engine doesn’t go anywhere before launch, you can either glue it in, or use a straightened paper clip sandwiched in the fuselage and bent over to hold the engine. Even engines that are glued in should have the cardboard engine block installed.

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Once dried and decorated, your rocket is ready to launch! Find an open area away from trees and power lines, and set up your launch pad. Insert your ignitor with safety plug, attach the controller, get back to a safe distance, and launch!

The greatest thing about these little rockets is they’re so cheap to make, you won’t really mind the crash at the end. That’s it! Be sure and experiment with different fin shapes or nose cones. Have fun rocket scientists, and remember, get out there and make something!

About the authors:

Super Awesome Sylvia and her dad (the TechNinja) are two born and bred makers, living in Northern California. Sylvia enjoys drawing, reading (Harry Potter, Calvin & Hobbes and anything else she can get her hands on), building robots, doing science experiments, and watching MythBusters. Her dad enjoys all that, too, and is currently a freelance programmer and video editor/compositor. Sylvia’s dream is to one day get into MIT like Ladyada.

If you want to buy a t-shirt to support her dream, check out Sylvia’s designs.

And don’t forget to check out all the big episodes of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show.

More:

becky-stern-headshot

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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