Launch It (Student Instruction)

Design and build an air-powered rocket that can hit a target 5 feet away.



STEM careers

Grade level



  • One balloon (plus a few spares in case one pops)
  • Two straight straws including: One thin straw, and one wide straw that is wide enough to easily slide over the thin one. A straw for milkshakes or other large drinks works well.
  • A few sheets of paper to make fins for your rocket
  • Tape
  • Scissors



Your challenge: How can you design and build design and build an air-powered rocket that can hit a target 5 feet away?

Build Your Launcher

  • Build the air-powered launcher for your rocket.
  • Take a thin straw and slide it into the mouth of the balloon.
  • Use tape to attach the straw and seal up any gaps.
  • To test your seal, inflate the balloon by blowing through the straw. Is your seal air-tight? Make sure none of the air is escaping through the seal.

Design and Build Your Rocket

  • Once your launcher is ready, it’s time to design and build your rocket using your wide straw.
  • The straw needs to be open at one end to take in the air from the balloon and closed off on the other end to harness that air power.
  • To close off one end, you can fold one end over and secure with tape, or design another way of closing it off.

Brainstorm Designs for Your Fins

  • Think about the stability of your rocket.
  • How can attaching paper fins help you hit your target?
  • How many fins do you think you need for a stable flight?
  • Sketch out a few fin designs, choose one to try, and use tape to attach your fins to your rocket.

Test It Out!

  • Inflate the launcher and pinch off the balloon to keep it inflated.
  • Slide the rocket onto the thin straw of the launcher.
  • Aim the rocket and, holding on to the rear of the balloon, release your pinched fingers.
  • How far did it go? Did you hit your target or come close?

Make Change and Try Again!

  • Experiment with your fins size, shape, number, and placement and observe how they affect the rocket’s flight to the target.
  • Did you succeed? Try new challenge like building the rocket that goes as high as possible or experiment with different materials.

Share Your Results with a Teacher, Parent/Guardian, or DiscoverE!


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