book collections email follower instructable user

This project is a fun way to learn about chemical reactions. And a safe way to learn about rocketry. I am a high school Science teacher. In our grade 9 curriculum, we cover basic chemistry and space as topics. But this is a project that anyone interested in rockets, tinkering, or making can have fun doing.

Note about safety: This activity is a microchemistry project; using small quantities in a controlled setting allows for a safe demonstration of rocketry that is also engaging, and fun. Leaving a small amount of water in the pipet bulb acts as a propellant, and contains the reaction to the bulb. (You won't see any explosion, or flame so other clues of a chemical reaction will have to be used/discussed with the students.) Adding the weight of a 3D printed part minimizes the distance that the rocket will travel to ~15ft.

However, with any high school science lab activity (dealing with creative students) make sure that you have knowledge about lab safety, and use good classroom management. I have done this lab 100's of times with no "close calls". I would say the biggest safety precaution is making sure you dedicate an area of the room for your launch site, and that you carry the only piezoelectric device - so that you can be in control of when the launch occurs, and minimize the small chance of the rocket hitting any objects unintentionally (The rocket will only travel ~15 feet). Have students wear safety glasses or goggles as a precaution. (Also, always consult your local science safety regulations for required classroom lab safety equipment and lab safety procedures).

General Design
The micro rocket will be designed using a disposable micropipet with a 3D printed rocket overtop of it. A small amount of hydrogen gas will be generated using Mg and Vinegar. A small amount of oxygen gas will be generated using hydrogen peroxide and yeast. The gases will be collected in a plastic micropipet bulb using gas displacement. The gases will be combined to form water using the help of a piezoelectric sparker.

H2 + O2 → H2O (Note all the "2s" should be subscript)

Background Lessons

1. Physical change vs Chemical change. Discuss clues to help decide if a chemical change has occurred: heat, light, or sound is given off, the change is difficult to reverse, a gas is produced, a new color is produced, a precipitate is produced. The number one indicator is that a new substance is made. (Three physical changes I discuss at the grade 9 level are change in state, change in form, and dissolving.)

2. The Particle Theory: Discuss the particle theory: all things are made of particles moving in random motion, adding heat to the substance makes the particles move faster, possibly breaking the attractive forces, and allowing a change of state. Taking heat away slows the particles down. I also discuss the unique properties of water here.

3. Atomic Theory: I introduce the atomic theory (including Bohr Rutherford Diagrams) and discuss elements vs compounds. I also introduce the idea of pure substances vs mixtures.

4. Chemical Equations: After doing Bohr Rutherford Diagrams I introduce ion formation. Then we look at ionic vs molecular compounds. I use the formation of water as an example of a molecular compound. We look at how to predict chemical formulas.

5. Balancing Equations: I teach the students the basics of balancing equations. (In our curriculum, more advanced balancing is done at the Gr 10 level.)

Questions for students to consider during the micro rocket activity:

1. Describe some physical properties of each reactant used e.g. vinegar is clear, colorless liquid

2. When Mg is added to vinegar is a chemical change or a physical change occurring? How do you know?

3. When Yeast is added to hydrogen peroxide is a chemical change, or physical change occurring? How do you know?

4. When the gases are collected in the bulb is it a pure substance, mixture, or compound? Explain

5. When the gases are collected, why is the water pushed out the bottom?

6. Based on the chemical formula of water, what ratios of gas will allow the rocket to fly the furthest?

7. When the piezoelectric is sparked, what is formed? Is this a pure substance, mixture, or compound (more than one description can be used).

8. After the piezoelectric is sparked, does a physical, or chemical change occur? What clues help you decide?

9. What angle of launch will allow the rocket to travel the furthest?

10. What are some physical properties of PLA filament that allow it to be useful for 3D printing?

Extension: Do different ratios of gas, do different angles of launch. Graph the results. 3D print rockets with different infill, tie in density. Research catalase, and tie in factors affecting enzyme function.

Step 1: 3D Design and Print the Rocket

Picture of 3D Design and Print the Rocket
MicroRocket (1).png

Tinkercad was used to design a rocket that fits overtop of the bulb of a pipet. (You could design any payload you want.)

Tinkercad Design

MakersBox1 month ago
I credit my life-long love of science to a great high school physics teacher who did a ton of crazy and engaging experiements like this. Keep up the good work!
jvlabrat (author)  MakersBox1 month ago
Thank you for the comment. Cheers JVlabrat
mark ideas1 month ago
interesting! the students will definitely love this!
ch00k2 months ago
Thanks for sharing! My gr9s are going to love this! You've got my vote :D
jvlabrat (author)  ch00k2 months ago
Hope you enjoy, Thank you.
S0dyP0p2 months ago
Nicely described, including the fact that the 3d printed parts are not strictly necessary. Using the printed rocket as a measurement tool is a nice touch. I definitely recommend leaving the exact ratio of hydrogen to oxygen up to the students as a concrete reinforcement of the reaction (stoichiometric) ratios and gives a great reward when they nail that 2:1 ratio.This setup will let them do a few trials to get that nice flight.
jvlabrat (author)  S0dyP0p2 months ago
Thank you!
audreyobscura2 months ago
This is such a cool project!
jvlabrat (author)  audreyobscura2 months ago
Thank you kindly, hopefully others can enjoy!