Design Challenge: Rocket and Launcher

Prompts and questions to ask the students

  • What is a rocket? What is a plane?
  • How do they fly? What is the science behind it?
  • How do they both take off? What is the difference?
  • Have you heard of aerodynamics?
  • How does the “air” support a rocket/plane?
  • Have you ever made a rocket/plane toy? What materials did you use? How far did it fly?

Video explaining the design of a rocket

A rocket is composed of many specially designed parts and applies many physics concepts to function properly. This activity will highlight the physics of rockets and how various wing formations and designs can impact the flight of the rocket.

Mission: Design, test, and modify a rocket and a launcher until you are satisfied that you have the model that performs
the best.

Performance criteria: Aim for a design that gets good distance and accuracy. Accuracy means getting it to land close to the same spot each time.

  • 2 Sheets of Copy Paper
  • 1 sheet of aluminum foil
  • 4 Straws (different sizes)
  • 1 Pencil
  • 1 Sheet of Construction Paper
  • 2 balloons
  • 1 cup
  • 1 foam sheet
  • 1 strip of clay
  • 5 rubber bands
  • 1 bottle of water
  • Folder tabs
  • Bullseye target
  • Tape

Video instructions: Introduction to the Rocket and Launcher Design Challenge (video 3:46)


  1. Make the body of the rocket by rolling a piece of paper around a pencil and securing it with tape. Slide the pencil out once the paper tube is properly secured. Two methods are shown in the video to assist with different wrapping techniques for the rocket. Also consider how much paper you want to use.
  2. Once the paper body of the rocket has been removed, slide the paper tube over a straw and blow into the straw to try to launch your rocket. Does it work? Why or why not? What might you do differently?
  3. To conduct fair test trials (as is with many engineering tests), be consistent with each rocket test. How can you make sure that each launch gets the same treatment? Design
    your launcher so it can be used the same way over and over again.
  4. Experiment with fun design, length, weight, and more. Use the target to test the accuracy.

  • What worked? Why? What challenges did you face?
  • How can these concepts be applied somewhere else?
  • How is your design unique?
  • How and when do you see these concepts in day-to-day life?
  • Where can you apply these concepts to improve something you are doing?
  • What other materials could have been used? Will they work? Too heavy, too flimsy etc.
  • Note: Take photos and explanations from students. Ask them to make posters/ diagrams etc to explain what they learnt

Zoom Recording

Return to the STEM Activity Library to access the aerospace engineering activities and other engineering majors.

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