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Paper Rockets

Paper Rockets!

Paper Rockets!

Paper Rockets!

Project Description (2)

Students will make paper rockets. They will create different patterns of motion by designing different shapes of fins and different patterns of fin placement.

Recommended Grade 2nd grade
Sciece Topic Force and Motion

NC 3.P.1 Understand motion and factors that affect motion.
3.P.1.3 Explain the effects of Earth’s gravity on the motion of any object on or near the Earth.


How do you make something move? You push or pull it! Pushes and pulls are forces; forces start, stop and change motion.

Friction is the force that happens when two things rub together. It opposes motion and makes things slow down. Is there friction in the air? Yes it’s called air resistance or drag. The air is a substance with particles that “rub” against objects, in this case our rockets.

Net Forces
The launcher is the source of force that pushes the rocket up in the air. The upward force is called thrust.

What are the forces opposing the upward motion of the rocket? Gravity and air resistance. Gravity is pulling the rocket toward the earth and air resistance is pushing it downward. The rocket will go up while the force of thrust is greater than the combined forces of air resistance + gravity.

The rocket will go up as long as the force of thrust is greater than the combined forces of air resistance + gravity. What happens when gravity + drag are greater than thrust? The rocket falls. As the rocket goes up it will slow down (decelerate) and as it come back toward Earth it will speed up (accelerate).

Predict how fins will influence the motion of the rocket
Fins control direction and stability
The stability of a rocket is its ability to keep flying through the air pointing in the right direction without wobbling or tumbling.

What will happen to the stability of a rocket with no fins?

Fins are also used to control direction. It works in the same way as placing feathers at the tail of an arrow. The greater drag on the feathers keeps the tail of the arrow at the back so that the point of the arrow travels straight into the wind.

The fins force the air to move around the rocket a certain way, the number and shape of the fins will influence the rocket's motion.

Where do you want to put the fins? What do you think will happen? There are no wrong hypotheses!

Learning Outcomes

1. A basic understanding of gravity and how it relates to rockets.
2. A basic understanding or air resistance and how it relates to rockets.
3. A basic understanding of the forces of flight.
4. This activity will expose students to taking a scientific approach to a problem, asking questions, imaging answers and testing their ideas.
5. Failing-Up
6. Practicing Patience


-Clear packing tape
-Printer paper
-12 in. PVC pipes
-Rocket Launcher (add link to build and purchase)


1. Students should look at a model rocket and draw the shape and pattern of their fins.
Video link coming soon!

Time Estimate: 60-75 minutes


This project is a huge hit with students and staff! Its another activity where students will have to practice patience and learn from their mistakes.

It is always beneficial to have an opportunity to test and re-design.