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Physics students use trial and error to challenge "Laws of the Universe"

On a brisk November morning, twenty-one Physics students in Ms. Harfmann’s class headed to the soccer fields to demonstrate their skills at manipulating the Laws of the Universe. The goal was simple, design a water rocket that will stay in the air at least five seconds; a project inspired while watching the movie October Sky in class.

In the movie, a pair of designers develops a rocket using trial and error and simple 2-dimensional motion analysis. Similarly, the students had a practice launch day where they were given an opportunity to test their design and make any changes necessary before the final launch.

Many students chose to create the lightest rocket possible, allowing air resistance to help keep it afloat longer; while others designed extravagant mechanisms designed to release a parachute during descent. Upon final launch, it seemed that the lighter and more aerodynamic rockets would prove to be the best projectiles; however, almost every single student was still able to meet the five second mark.

Now the students are tasked with using the data collected during the launch, and developing a theoretical trajectory among other calculations, all using simple 2-dimensional motion equations from class!

Written by: Kaitlyn Harfmann, Teacher
Posted: Dec 08, 2014 by Lisa Justice

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