Teacher Rick Ramsey sent me this photo from his science club: a rocket caught just after launch and still in the frame!

If I had to pick just one science project that would appeal to the most people, this air rocket would be the one. Everyone who sees one the first time just can't believe how high it goes. It costs less than $2 to make the launcher, and the rockets are free.

Air rockets appeal to a vast range of ages. Pre-schoolers (under the watchful eye of an adult) can send rockets higher than their houses. Teenagers and adults can engineer rockets that go higher than the tallest trees. The rockets can take up helicopters and maple seeds and release them at the highest point.

I am working on an instructional video for this project. In the mean time, two sets of instructions will get you to launch: Instructions for making the launcher

and Instructions for making the rockets.

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Here's another picture with the rocket launched but still in the frame, sent by Matt Naiva upon his son William's birthday party.

John Biegun is the science teacher I wish I’d had. Among the many projects (check out his channel) are air rockets.

Phil Weglarz sent in a clever rocket variation with a parachute. He says, "Adding an inverted bottle cap to the tip allows the rocket to carry a payload with parachute, which deploys on its own on the way down. I used the standard army guy with chute and glued him onto a piece of cork that fits in the bottle cap. (here's a close-up of our "pilot" on the launch pad) "

I have also made parachutes that attach directly to the rocket. You can see them in this video (among other science exhibits).
We had to dumb-down the launchers because the rockets were hitting the gym ceiling so hard that I was afraid they would make holes!.


Kids have a way of stomping on the end, breaking the bottle. Wouldn't it be great if we could pump up air resivior instead of stomping? My freind and collaborator Erik Herman, who does science outreach at Cornel University., came up with a brilliant mechanism.

From a safety point of view, it would be very difficult to accidentally launch it. The higher the pressure, the harder you have to push to launch it. From an education standpoint, it’s so visible and available for kids to figure out how it works. From an economic standpoint, ingenuity triumphed over money!