Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rocketry From Scratch

A simple launcher kiddo recently built using unused stuff in our garage
The boys have been dabbling in found-object rocketry...gulp!

I've been torn between cringing in a corner with Adrian, and jumping in with gusto to launch the mini rockets with them. This is something I would have loved to do as a kid. Perhaps even loved to do with kiddo had I paid attention during middle and high school physics. Age and ignorance are making me too cautious, wimpy and easily worried. On the one hand, I love that he is taking risks...on the other, my maternal instincts are stressing me out re injuries.

Control module (top), battery pack (left) and Rover launcher
Anyway, so far, kiddo is obviously learning a ton from just doing as opposed to reading a book about it or discussing a lot of theory first. So I have to think positively. Must. Support. Risky. Projects.

They started their rocketry project by retrofitting kiddo's rover with a tiny dashboard-mounted camera and launcher (using an effervescent vitamin C tablet tube) mounted on a lego mindstorms body. They built a control module to encase the iPad (navigates the rover) and a tv screen (for a rover's-eye-view angle). Missile nose cones and casings etc. are basically metal pen toppers and tubes, and fins are from old darts or made with other light materials. Wires, clips, electronics components were mostly taken from various, cheap science kits that we have.

They did purchase a few items:
  • The rover and mindstorms kit were Christmas gifts. 
  • The portable TV and camera were bought cheap from hobby stores. 
  • Spent casing (nicknamed Vegetable)
  • The rocket engine was from Fry's.
Arrow and Hummingbird pen casings
After one really cool test launch (that nearly decimated one of our bushes lol), the rover launcher has been retired for use for another day/ purpose.

After dabbling with the rover launcher, his Dad suggested trying different types of launchers and so they are each now building and testing their individual rockets and launchers. Kiddo has built two so far and his Dad has built one. There has been a good amount of planning and discussion going on as well while I watch with a mix of excitement and apprehension.

Discussing possible trajectories
Dad's currently untested launcher
I have been contributing (really!). I am googling assistant for questions that come up and small parts that need to be priced/ purchased, ardent supporter (who is secretly rather anxious) and holder plus comforter of a particular canine companion who isn't too happy about the little pops and wooshes and puffs of smoke that appear in our yard every few weekends. :)
We are lucky that we have a safe amount of yard space for testing. In a few weeks, the boys plan to seek some sort of rocketry license through a local rocketry association to ensure that they can use a larger, safer test site (for possibly larger projects, yikes!).

So far, the boys have just been chugging along using online articles for guidance. Being the link hoarder I am, I can't resist bookmarking a few resources and materials to download/ buy if interest increases:
Wish us luck!


  1. Goodness, this looks like a very complicated project, but it's certainly something that Tiger would find interesting. I'll have to brace myself to look into the topic a little more in anticipation of having to do this in a few years' time. Thanks for sharing the resources. They're over my head at the moment. Gulp.

  2. Love this!! Forwarding this to Kipp and Landry. :)

  3. Good luck :)

    I'd be rather anxious too!!

  4. Thanks everyone! :) I was secretly pleased that a test launch yesterday failed lol. Shhh! Don't tell the boys!

  5. AWESOME!!!
    That looks like a lot of fun!

  6. This is Awesome!! Tru would love to work on something like this!!


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