@BenedickRaikes is the 6th grade science teacher at The School at Columbia University and an extraordinary colleague. He was inspired to build water rocket launchers this semester. In preparation for that, he purchased a book, Make: Rockets, and a Water Rocket Launcher kit from Maker Shed. (Update: these kits do not seem to be currently available…)
After assembling the kit’s prototype, Ben felt much better about asking 6th graders to build their own water rocket launchers as well. We purchased all of the parts using the supplies list from the book (also on the DIY project website). Most of the materials came from Lowe’s, and this process was made substantially easier as the book includes all of the parts numbers. Other bits and bobs were sourced from Amazon and the neighborhood hardware store.
Ben and I thought it would be fun if the students were to “place an order” at Lowe’s for the materials, so we shared the shopping list with them. Students were tasked with filling out a spreadsheet in math class that included space for them to insert an image of each part and an area for them to tally the cost of the project. See below:
This week, 6th graders assembled their water rocket launchers using plans from Make Magazine: http://makezine.com/projects/water-rocket-launcher Students were divided into 4 groups of about 4-5 students. Each group had a faculty mentor at their table — 6th Grade Math Teacher Catherine Hildebrandt (@KKleinNYC), Math Associate Jazmin Sherwood, Intermediate Division Principal Kevin Fittinghoff, and me — which left Ben to float from group to group offering help and guidance. We had to saw PVC and wood, join pieces with epoxy or PVC primer and cement, assemble materials, work with drills, screwdrivers, utility knives, pliers, clamps, and more.
After two days of constructing rocket launchers, students were asked to fill out a self-reflection feedback sheet with the following questions:
- Did you enjoy the rocket launcher building project? Give reasons.
- What was your favorite part of the project?
- What did you find difficult or challenging?
- Did you learn anything new doing this activity?
- What are your thoughts about working in a group of 4 or 5 children?
- Would you be interested in doing a project like this again? What would you chose to build? (Realistic suggestions only please!)
Tomorrow students will have a soft launch (pun intended!) of their rockets. On Monday, the grade will gather together in the park for the official launch and to compare results.
After seeing my tweet about our project, Chris Casal (@Mr_Casal) shared a link to a wonderful video highlighting the work of Christine Boyer (@5boyer) and her 5th graders who launched rockets last year. Christine also provided a wonderful documentation of the project here, and she recently presented her class’s work at the National Science Teachers Assocation‘s annual conference!