Monday, October 1, 2012

Up, Up, and Away!

Most ducks say fall has arrived when temperatures drop, days grow shorter, and tree leaves start to change color.  But to me, fall is really here when Shelburne Museum has been taken over by school kids!  Shelburne Museum’s Passport to Learning program has 12 fun and exciting workshops around the grounds for school kids in Kindergarten through 8th grade.  For the next few weeks, kids from all over Vermont and its surrounding states will journey here to experience as many workshops as they can during their visit.

Passport to Learning’s newest workshop is called “Blast Off!” which is based on Webb Gallery’s exhibit, TimeMachines:  Robots, Rockets, and Steampunk.
A coin-operated rocket ride you can see on exhibit in the
Time Machines:  Robots, Rockets, and Steampunk show at Webb Gallery!

After checking out the exhibit’s cool collection of toy rockets from the 1900s, kids head outside to test out their own rockets!   

Wait a minute – what is a rocket?  Rockets fly in the air, but certainly not like a duck!  Rockets are big tubes that are filled with two different types of fuel.  When these fuels are set on fire they are pushed out from the bottom of the tube at a very fast speed, which causes the rocket to lift off into the air.   Huge rockets are powerful enough to take shuttles, satellites, and rovers into space, just like this rocket that sent the Curiosity Rover to Mars!

Atlas V-541 rocket's lifting off into space carrying the Mars Curiosity Rover to Mars.
 Click on here to see some more amazing pictures of this powerful rocket!

Want to make a fun little rocket at home?  Here’s what you’ll need:

·         Film Canister
(If you don't have one lying around,
you can purchase a small pack here.)

·         Alka Seltzer Tablets

·         Water

·         Board or Mat (to use as a launch pad)

You’ll definitely want to be outside for your rocket launch, only because it does get messy and you certainly don’t want any crashes into a ceiling!

Simply fill the film canister with a little bit of water (do not fill it more than half).  Next, drop one Alka Seltzer tablet into the canister and quickly snap on the lid.  As fast you can, give the canister a small shake and put it on the launch pad with the lid side facing down on the mat.  You’ll only have a second or two before liftoff, so quickly move away from the rocket!

It's filling up with forceful gas!
Just like the real rockets that go into space, your film canister rocket is lifted off the ground by the gasses created by the Alka Seltzer tablet mixing with the water.  Pretty neat stuff!

How far did your rocket go?  What changes would you make to the rocket to make it go even higher? If you could design your own small rocket, what materials would you use?  Tell me about your experiments and results by emailing me at and for a chance to appear on my blog!

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