My sweet friend, Michelle, is a woman with a passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). She is a STEM specialist and is an inspiration to kids and teachers. Michelle previously shared her Arbonne work with Casa Bouquet and now she has agreed to share some of her exciting STEM engineering design cycle activities for students.
Now, here’s Michelle to share her soda straw rocket engineering design with us:
Supplies for soda straw rocket
- paper of different thicknesses, textures and sizes
- straws (in wrappers), at least one per student
Engage: (5 min)
Before students arrive make a soda straw rocket that you can launch with blowing in a straw. [Note: you could also have students use straws with their wrappers to see how far they fly.]
When students come in and get settled, ask them what STEM is. Collect a few good definitions from students as a review. Explain that today they are going to do STEM by designing a rocket that can be launched with a straw. Say, “Let’s see who can build a rocket that can travel the farthest distance off of one puff of air through the straw.” Then shoot the soda straw rocket in the room. This is also a good place to mention aerospace engineering – only mention they will be aerospace engineers. Students can research what aerospace engineers do during the Explain or Elaborate sections.
Explore: (30 min)
Divide students into groups of two or three. Tell students that they can use one piece of paper- any kind they choose. But they have to decide as a group what piece they would like while you pass out the rest of the materials. Pass out one straw per group and a piece of tape about 6 inches long. Then pass out their chosen paper.
Show students the image of the engineering design cycle. Mention that engineers sometime enter the cycle at any point but we are going to start with the ASK. Say, “What is our Problem?” (How can I build a soda straw rocket that will go a long distance?) “What are our constraints?” (one piece paper, one piece tape, a straw and one breath for propulsion)
Now proceed to the IMAGINE/PLAN stage. Have each student diagram possible soda straw rocket designs without talking. Using a timer to time them will help them focus. (3min). At this point students will want to just start building. It is important to stress why engineers make sketches or templates before they begin building or creating. Materials are expensive and a sketched blueprint can help focus teams working together. Once individuals have sketched an idea allow them to discuss as a group which one they should try.
Next, segue to the CREATE phase. Point out to groups that they are moving into this phase. Allow groups time to build. Tell students they will have about 10 min (you can decide amount of time) to complete their first prototype. Tell students when the timer goes off they will shoot their rockets to see whose goes farther (point back to ASK).
After timer goes off, line students up for the prototype launch. Allow groups the best distance of 2 launches. Have them leave the rocket on the floor at the best distance. Ask the following question, “Which design seemed to perform the best?” Have students make a histogram of how the designs performed and make notes in their notebooks of ideas they have to make their rocket go farther.
Explain, part 2: (15-20 min)
Have groups use their notes and histograms from the prototype launch. Ask students where they are in the engineering design cycle process. (IMPROVE) Ask them if they have ideas for improving their prototype. Say, “How can we figure out more ways to make our rockets work better?” Lead students into a discussion about how research helps engineer design better structures or equipment. Give students time to research rocket design and collect more ideas for redesign. (See Resource Links for examples)
Elaborate: (15-20 min)
Allow time for the group to decide how they will redesign their rocket from the group’s ideas. (Groups may ask to make more than one change or additional prototype at this point. Conditions can be placed based on teacher discretion.) Ask, “Why did the winning prototype from test one have the best performance and did you incorporate it into your second design?” Provide at least 10 min for redesign.
After the timer goes off, line students up for the second prototype launch. Allow groups the best distance of 2 launches. Have them leave the rocket on the floor at the best distance. Ask students, “What would be the best way to analyze the data collected from the second test?” At this point another redesign session can happen and a third launch or the lesson can conclude. It is important to show how the engineering design cycle doesn’t have a specific stopping point.
Evaluate: (5-10 min)
Have students discuss and log design features and how they impact rocket flight. Have the students make a table that includes rocket features such as
|ROCKET FEATURE||EFFECT ON FLIGHT|
|Nose Cone Shape|
|Nose Cone Length|
|Rocket Body (Fuselage) Length|
|Rocket Body Shape|
|Fin (presence vs. absence)|
Additional sample evaluation questions:
1) How do you think the following picture of a rocket would perform? (Teacher: insert your picture)… defend your answer.
What is the science?
Content: forces and interactions, motion, engineering design
When you blow the puff of air, it exerts an upward force on the top of the rocket. As it flies, gravity exerts a downward force on the rocket. The amount of force depends on the mass of the rocket. Adding shapes to the top of the rocket and fins or wings on the side change the forces and can contribute to lift.
- Kids’ Science Challenge Build a soda straw rocket
- The Engineering Design Process from Science Buddies
- Space Rockets from Explain That Stuff
- Rocket Aerodynamics from Science Learning Hub
- General Lab Safety resources from Flinn Scientific. Be sure to check out the Student Safety Contract.
- The 5E lesson plan model from Next Generation Science Standards
“Hey, friends! I’m Michelle Benigno and I am a mom, a science educator and an Independent Consultant/District Manager for Arbonne. I am based in the Asheville, NC area. I love science, cows, musicals, hiking and family time. I love teaching and Arbonne has given me a new opportunity to teach and share.”
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