MAKE: Intern's Corner
Every other week, MAKE’s awesome interns tell about the projects they’re building in the Make: Labs, the trouble they’ve gotten into, and what they’ll make next.

By Steven Lemos, engineering intern

Making the Hydrogen-Oxygen Bottle Rocket (that Adam Savage is posing with on the cover of the new MAKE, Volume 20) was a pretty basic endeavor, with the exception of the circuit. The original schematic diagram had a flaw in it, but only after we breadboarded the circuit – twice — did we catch it.

I guess that’s the reason we MAKE interns build the projects that run in the magazine, so it’s us who bang our heads against the table and not you. I will kindly take that cookie now.


The experience showed me that, sure, when working with electronics it’s easy to misplace a component or wire, or completely miss something, which I already knew, but it’s just as easy to have a diagram be the culprit. So a word to the wise (a word I’m sure all the experienced hobbyists have already discovered for themselves): if you take care when putting together these tedious circuits it will pay off, for if you can trust in your work, then you’ll know the culprit lies in the plans, and you won’t spend hours chasing that metaphorical wild goose.

Twice we breadboarded this bad boy before discovering an error in the schematic — so you won”t have to.

But on to the actual launch. :) We had talked to the local electronics store owner, who at the time was making his own hydrogen using a more sophisticated apparatus, and who was interested in what we were doing with ours. So he came to watch, and brought along his professional pyrotechnician friend, who showed us how to make fuses with 12V and tiny resistors (basically the resistors pass so much current that the wire heats up and can act as a fuse to light stuff — voilà, cheap fuses).

Our beautiful 2-stage HHO rocket ready for test launching — before being crippled by a crash.

The first launch was a success, with the two stages going off rather quickly in succession, so we dialed in a little more delay time in the circuit before the stage 2 ignition. This was good and bad. We got more height out of the rocket on our second launch, but on its return it landed electronics side down. This resulted in our circuit behaving oddly.

So, not ready yet to call it a day, we began firing off only one stage at a time, adjusting the proportions of HHO (hydrogen and oxygen gases), water, and air, and testing the makeshift fuses, which worked fine for a single stage, but due to the time they take to ignite ([email protected]) might not work for 2 stages.

We probably launched 12 times that day, attracting passersby. Good weather, new friends (who like blowing stuff up), and multiple launches. All in all, a good day. Houston, we have liftoff.

• Related: MAKE, Volume 20: “For Kids of All Ages”