Straw Rockets

In the Straw Rockets challenge, students explore the early life of Dr. Robert Goddard while reading the biography, The Rocket Age Takes Off. After investigating Goddard's early trial, students build, test and modify rockets made from drinking straws. They test the rockets to see how far they can fly. Concepts covered in this unit include Newton's Laws of Motion, Gravity, thrust, lift and drag.

The A World In Motion Primary Challenges consist of four different activities. Each of these challenges can be taught over a one to two week period. The challenges give young students many opportunities to explore a toy they have constructed and to develop an understanding of what it means to conduct a fair test.

A unique feature of this program is the use of portions of a problem-solving process employed by engineers working in teams. The -Engineering Design Experience- for Primary students consists of: Set Goals, Build Knowledge, Design, Build and Test and Present.

SAE International offers three levels of kits: Basic, Complete Classroom and Deluxe Classroom for a class size of 28 students.

Lesson Plan Overview


Lesson 1 - Up, Up and Away!
Students begin to explore rockets made from plastic drinking straws. Student teams build straw rockets of different sizes and informally investigate how they fly when launched by blowing through a second straw.


Lesson 2 - How Do Our Rockets Go?
Students continue exploring rockets made from plastic drinking straws. They test their rockets in a systematic manner, and discuss their observations about the flight distances and patterns of the different rockets. They begin to hypothesize about why those differences might have occurred.


Lesson 3 - Straw Length
In this activity, students experiment with different straw lengths. They systematically test how straw length affects travel distance and accuracy.


Lesson 4 - Nose Weight
In this activity, students continue to explore their straw rockets. They experiment with how adding weight to the rockets’ noses affects their performance. Students continue to test their rockets systematically and explore the concept of well-designed or fair tests.


Lesson 5 - Fins aren't just for fish!
In this activity, students experiment with adding fins to their straw rockets to see how they affect the rocket's flight. Students systematically test how adding fins affects travel distance and accuracy.


Lesson 6 - Create Your Own Rockets
In this activity, students use the knowledge they've gained over the course of the challenge to build a rocket that can fly at least 5 meters and land within a small circle.


Lesson 7 - Rocket Contests
In the previous activity, students had the opportunity to create a rocket that flew at least 5 meters and land within ½ meter of a target. In this activity, student teams compete to see which team created the most accurate and longest-flying rocket.

Kit Materials


Items Quantity
International Space Rockets Poster 1
Straws(Individually wrapped) 2
Straws (5.5mm) 36
Straws (6mm) 36
Straws (6.5mm) 36
Straws (7.5mm) 36
Straws (12mm) 36
Cellophane Tape 5
Kids Safe Tape Measure 3
Modeling Clay 1
Ball of String 1
Sticky Flag Dispenser 3
Wooden Pegs 4
Index Tabs 10
Student Reader 1
Teacher Manual on CD 1



Sample Lesson Plan

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