The Big Think

April 10, 2006

Mad Scientists- Water Rocket

Filed under: Mad Science — jasony @ 11:49 pm

I had another great mad scientist day with my good friend Sean today. We built and launched a water rocket. The rocket itself is built out of a 2 liter Coke bottle and the base/launcer is constructed from PVC pipe, rubber O-rings, and cable ties (yes, cable ties). The whole contraption is powered by compressed air that is supplied by a cigarrette-lighter powered air pump. At first, we didn’t the silly looking thing would even work. We figured that it would leak too much water, that the seals wouldn’t be tight enough, or that the flimsy looking release mechanism (those cable ties) would do the trick. Skeptically, we set the thing to 40 psi with about 1/3rd of the inverted bottle filled with water. *WHOOSH*. What a surprise to see the thing go up probably 50 feet!
After several tries, we finally maxxed out the pressure at 100psi and about 1 liter of water. By this point Sean’s kids had gone home and we were cowering in the car like scared little girls while holding onto the release rope. Unfortunately, it was after 10pm so we couldn’t get good video- or even any pictures, but we did have a couple of Cyalume glow sticks duct taped to the bottle acting as locators and impromptu rocket fins. I think we easily bypassed 100 feet and probably came closer to 150. It was quite an impressive show.
This project was dirt cheap, costing us each about $15 to buy enough materials for two rockets (it’s kinda hard to buy a 2″ section of PVC pipe, so we’ve got lots extra). The most expensive parts were probably the brass fittings and air line hose. So I brought the extra stuff home with me and will build my own version later. I’ll document with pics and post some video when I shoot it off at the park. What a great time.

for plans and more discussion of water rockets, visit this site.

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