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This Is Rocket Science: An Activity Guide: 70 Fun and Easy Experiments for Kids to Learn More About Our Solar System

This Is Rocket Science: An Activity Guide: 70 Fun and Easy Experiments for Kids to Learn More About Our Solar System

by Emma Vanstone
This Is Rocket Science: An Activity Guide: 70 Fun and Easy Experiments for Kids to Learn More About Our Solar System

This Is Rocket Science: An Activity Guide: 70 Fun and Easy Experiments for Kids to Learn More About Our Solar System

by Emma Vanstone


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Building a rocket and learning about science has never been easier with This Is Rocket Science: An Activity Guide.

Fun experiments for kids and adults teach you how to build mind-blowing projects, each designed to show how mechanical science and astrophysics work from the inside out. Use everyday items like bottles, cardboard, glue and tape to build awesome rocket ships, paper spinners and mobile rocket launch pads, all while learning concepts like Newton’s Third Law of motion (for every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction), speed, gravity and air resistance. Kids learn to make scientific observations, ask questions, identify and classify and find answers to their questions, all while investigating space.

This book will feature 70 activities and 60 photographs.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781624145247
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 04/17/2018
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 623,497
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 7 - 12 Years

About the Author

Emma Vanstone, creator of the award winning blog Science Sparks, has a degree in microbiology and virology and is passionate about making science fun and accessible for kids. Emma lives in England with her husband and 4 children.

Read an Excerpt



Have you ever wondered why you don't shoot off into space when you jump; how a rocket gets off the ground; or why a toy car rolling down a ramp moves faster than on flat surface? To understand all of these things, you need to learn about forces.

Forces are all around us all the time. One big force is gravity. Gravity pulls objects towards the Earth; it's the reason we walk on the ground and don't float around, and why planes and rockets need engines to lift into the air. Gravity not only keeps us on Earth, it also keeps the Earth and other planets revolving around the Sun.

Gravity is a big issue when it comes to rocket science, because to get into space, a rocket needs to escape the gravitational force trying to pull it back to Earth. A rocket is able to launch and accelerate as long as the thrust force upwards is greater than the gravity and drag which slow it down.

Imagine life with no gravity: We'd have to be tethered to the Earth to stop us from floating away, and the atmosphere, rivers and oceans would all drift off into space!



Have you ever wondered why things fall to the ground when you drop them; why we don't all float around above the ground; or why astronauts can jump much higher on the Moon than on Earth? It's all because of a pulling force called gravity.

Bigger objects have a greater gravitational force. The Moon is much smaller than the Earth and so has much weaker gravity. The Moon's gravity is about one-sixth of that on Earth, which is why you can jump higher there.

* Large piece of white paper/white sheet/cardboard

* Small water balloons

* Funnel

* Water-based, non-toxic paint

* Water

Pick an area outside that can be paint splattered (ask an adult first!), and lay down the paper or sheet.

To make the paint balloons, blow up the balloon, let the air out and then place a small funnel into the top of the balloon. Pour in a good amount of paint before filling with water from the tap and tying the balloon end securely. Give your balloon a good shake to mix the water and paint. The water helps stretch the balloon so it will break more easily.

Once you've made a few balloons, think about how to test them. What do you think will happen when you drop the balloons? You know they will drop to the ground, (remember this is because of the pulling force of gravity) but what else might happen?

Hold a balloon as high up as you can and drop it onto the paper — does it break? If not, what do you think you could do to make it splat and why?

Try dropping paint-filled balloons from different heights and observe how the splatter pattern changes. What do you think might be different about a splat from a low height and one from higher up? Why do you think this is?

Don't forget to clear up the balloon pieces afterward as these can be harmful to animals.


Try dropping an air-filled balloon and a paint/water-filled balloon at the same time. Do you think they will hit the ground simultaneously or at different times? Why do you think this is?


This activity uses paint-filled water balloons to demonstrate the force of gravity pulling an object down to Earth. The paint gives a great visual of the impact of the balloon hitting the ground, allowing you to compare how the speed of the balloon at impact changes the size of the paint splat. Remember, the greater the height an object falls from, the more speed it has when it hits the ground.



This Rocket Blaster is a great fun way to learn about gravity and trajectory. When you pull back and release the mechanism, you should notice that the pom-poms inside don't fall straight to the ground. This is because there are two forces acting on them. Gravity tries to pull the pom-poms down while the forward force from the inner tube propels them forward. These two forces create a curved path to the ground.

* Rubber band

* 2 cardboard tubes about 12 inches (30 cm) long (one should fit inside the other)

* Screwdriver, or something else to make a hole with

* Cardstock or plastic lid, for the inner cardboard tube

* Tape

* Small round pom-poms

* Paper, for decoration

* Paint, for decoration

Cut the rubber band so that it forms a single length, then take the wider tube and make a hole using a screwdriver through both sides about 1 inch (3 cm) from one end.

For the smaller tube, make two more holes close to the middle, making sure there is enough of the narrower tube sticking out of the bottom of the larger tube when you put them inside each other for you to hold.

Seal one end of the narrow tube with a piece of cardstock and tape. You can decorate the outside with paper or paint, if desired.

Align the holes by placing the smaller tube inside the larger one (the sealed end of the narrow tube should be inside the wider tube) and thread the rubber band through all the holes. Attach each end of the rubber band to the outside of the wider tube with tape. To test if the mechanism works, pull the inner tube down and let go.

Drop some pom-poms inside the mechanism, pull back the inner tube and let go. The pom-poms should fly through the air.


What happens if you use bigger pom-poms, do they fly as far?

Can you measure how far different-sized pom-poms travel?


A real rocket needs to overcome the force of gravity pulling it downward, which it does by creating an upward thrust force from its engines. The thrust force upward must be greater than the downward gravitational force for a rocket to lift off.



A great marble run is constructed so the marbles keep rolling all the way to the end, which might be more difficult that it sounds. To keep your marble rolling, you need to understand the forces acting on it.

Gravity pulls down on the marble forcing it to roll down any slopes on the track. While gravity is forcing a marble down a track, frictional forces are slowing the marble down as the marble and marble run rub against each other. The marble will stop if the force of friction is greater than the force of gravity.

* Long cardboard tubes, cut in half

* Large sheet of thick cardboard

* Tape or glue

* Marbles

* Aluminum foil, colored cardstock and paint to decorate

* Bubble wrap, optional

* Paper towels or kitchen roll, optional

Cut the cardboard tubes into different lengths. These should all be shorter than the width of the large sheet of cardboard. Try placing them down on the large cardboard sheet and start to plan the marble run. Would you like a long, slow marble run, or a quick, fast run? Think about how to position the tubes to make the marble run fast and how you would change them to make it slower. Attach the tubes using tape or glue.

Think about how the marble will roll. It will roll downwards because of gravity and slow down because of friction, but how could you get the marble to roll upwards? You'll need it to be travelling fast enough to overcome gravity. Try a tube with a steep drop followed by a smaller slope upwards. You might have to experiment with different slopes to allow the marble to reach the top of the upward slope.

Use aluminum foil, colored cardstock and paint to decorate your marble run.

Test your marble run using a marble. Does it work as you expected?


Split into two teams with a group of friends and see who can make the best track to keep a marble rolling for the longest amount of time. Each team should start with the same length of tubing.

Can you change the surface of your tubes so the marble moves more slowly? Try bubble wrap or paper towels on the inside. These surfaces are rougher than the inside of a cardboard tube so the frictional force will be greater, meaning the marble moves more slowly.


How do you think you could make a very long marble run?

Hint — you'll need to create a very slightly sloping track which is just steep enough to overcome friction and keep the marble rolling.



If you tried the Space Marble Run, you'll know that two of the forces acting on a moving object are gravity and friction. A pinball machine is a bit different, as it needs to overcome gravity to shoot a marble or small ball uphill, which can then make its own way down due to gravity.

There are lots of things to think about when making a pinball machine. You need a mechanism to shoot the ball upwards so it falls down quickly; objects down the center to slow the fall of the marble; and if you're feeling very adventurous, you could even make a flipper to flip the marble upwards again.

* Cardboard box

* Small cardboard tubes

* Straws

* Tape

* Craft knife

* Strips of cardboard

* Marble or small ball

You'll need a shallow box to make a good pinball machine. Make sure you've removed the top so you have a base with fours edges before starting.

You'll need a mechanism to shoot the marble up the ramp. Either use two cardboard tubes, one of which fits inside the other, or a bundle of straws taped together to make the inner tube. You can also make this in a similar way to the Rocket Blaster here.

Once you've made the mechanism and attached it to one side of the pinball machine box, you'll need to make a hole in the box using a craft knife where you want the mechanism to sit. Add a strip of cardboard to the corner of the box above the launch mechanism so the marble curves around the top of the box rather the dropping straight back down.

Think about how to set up obstacles on the inside. If you want the marble to drop down the pinball machine quickly, make the ramps steep. If you want the marble to roll more slowly, make the ramps more gradual.


Try adding some holes that the marble will drop through if it rolls over them. What else could you add to the pinball machine to slow the descent of the marble or speed it up?

Change the incline of your pinball machine by leaning it on a stack of books. You should find the marble drops down the pinball machine faster with a steeper slope.


Several factors will affect how fast your marble drops. First is the slope of the pinball machine. A steep slope will mean the ball falls faster. You can slow the fall by adding ramps on the inside. A long gradual ramp will reduce the speed the ball is traveling at more than a short steep ramp, so think about how you'd like the marble to travel before making your plan.



Have you ever accidentally dropped an egg on the floor and watched it smash? When you drop an object, it is pulled to the ground by gravity, picking up speed as it falls. Remember gravity is a force that pulls an object to the ground.

One way to stop an egg from smashing when it hits the floor is to create an outer casing that reduces the impact of the hard landing on the egg. If you want to make this activity a little less messy, you could boil your astronaut eggs!

* Cardboard tubes

* Colored cardstock for decoration

* Eggs (boiled for less mess)

* Cotton wool, bubble wrap, paper towels, pasta

* Tape

* Tape measure or ruler

Your challenge is to create a safe rocket to allow your eggy astronaut to reach the ground without a single crack.

First, decorate the cardboard tubes so they look like rockets. Think about how you can protect the eggs so they don't break when they hit the ground.

Wrap an egg in cotton wool inside a tube. Remember to make sure there's enough cotton wool to stop the egg from moving. You could also try bubble wrap, paper towels, pasta or anything else you think might protect the egg. When you're ready, seal the bottom with tape.

Once the rockets are prepared, think about the type of surface you want to drop them on. You want a hard surface to really put your protection methods to the test. When you're ready, drop the protected astronaut from as far up as you can reach.

When experimenting, it's important to make the tests fair, so use a ruler or tape measure to make sure you drop each egg rocket from the same height. Or, you could ask the same person to drop them from as far up as they can reach.


Blow the contents out of an egg so you have just the shell. Draw on the shell so it looks like an astronaut and package it up to send to a friend. Can you package it so well that the eggshell arrives at its destination completely intact?



Rockets overcome the force of gravity trying to pull them back down to earth by generating a massive amount of thrust, which pushes the rocket upwards.

This simple trick shows how to overcome gravity not by generating thrust, but by using a little magnet trickery.

Magnets have two poles: a north pole and south pole. If you place two magnets together end to end, opposite poles will attract and be drawn to each other, while like poles repel each other.

Magnets also attract some metals (like iron and steel), a feature which this activity takes advantage of.

* Black and white cardstock

* Cardboard box

* Chalk

* Double-sided tape

* Thin thread

* Steel paper clip

* Magnet

Magnets should always be used with adult supervision to avoid swallowing.

Think about the space scene you'd like to create. Would you like the astronaut to be on the Moon, or floating in space? Will they be exploring Mars or traveling farther afield?

Cut out a piece of the black cardstock to fit tightly inside the box and draw a space themed scene on the cardstock using chalk. This will form the background for the magnetic box. Attach the card to the back of the cardboard box using the double-sided tape.

Tie the thin thread to the paper clip and place the magnet on top of the box. Check that the paper clip is attracted to the magnet through the box. If it's not, you'll need a stronger magnet.

Attach the non-paper clip end of the thread to the bottom of the box using tape, remembering to leave just enough length so the paper clip seems to float in the air. Once you've mastered suspending the paper clip, draw a small astronaut or rocket on white card or paper and attach it to the paper clip. You should now have a rocket or astronaut flying in space!


Try moving the magnet around. Can you make your astronaut or rocket spin or fly around?

What's the biggest gap between the box lid and paper clip you can create without the paper clip falling down?


The magnetic force between the paper clip and magnet on the top of the box is stronger than gravity's pull. This means the paper clip remains suspended in the air rather than falling to the ground. If you move the paper clip farther from the magnet, the pull of the magnet becomes less. This makes gravity the stronger force acting on the paper clip, which drops to the ground.



One of the forces acting on a rocket as it flies through the air is the drag between the surface of the rocket and the air. Drag can be thought of as aerodynamic friction. Rockets are streamlined to reduce the effect of drag.

Friction is a force which slows movement between two objects in contact with each other. Imagine two pieces of ribbon rubbing together: the motion feels smooth as there isn't much friction to slow it down. Now imagine rubbing two pieces of kitchen towel together: The motion will be much slower because there is more friction. If you wanted to ski fast down a hill, you'd want your skis to be smooth. Rougher skis would create more friction between them and the snow, slowing you down.

The amount of friction between two objects depends on what the objects are made from, as the rougher the surface, the more friction produced. The more streamlined a rocket is (like being made of metal), the more easily air can flow over the surface, which reduces the slowing effect of friction.



This activity is a great demonstration of friction and a fun trick to show your friends, too! Tell them you can lift a bottle with a pencil without the pencil touching the sides and see if they think you can do it. Remember friction is one of the forces acting on a rocket as it flies through the air.

* Funnel

* Small plastic water bottle

* Rice, uncooked

* Pencil

Use the funnel to fill the bottle up with rice, leaving just a bit of space at the top. Tap the bottle's base on a flat surface to let the rice settle.

Carefully push a pencil into the bottle of rice and then pull up again gently. Repeat this motion until the pencil becomes harder and harder to pull out of the bottle as the amount of friction between the pencil and rice increases.

Once the pencil is stuck, try to lift up the bottle of rice with the pencil.


What happens if you use less rice?


As you push the pencil into the bottle the grains of rice are being pushed together, rubbing up against each other, creating friction. Eventually the rice grains push against the pencil with enough friction to keep the pencil stuck in place.


Excerpted from "This Is Rocket Science An Activity Guide"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Emma Vanstone.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 9

Glorious Gravity 13

Gravity Splat 15

Rocket Blaster 16

Space Marble Run 19

Gravity Pinball Machine 20

Drop the Astronaut 23

Fly with Magnets 24

Fantastic Friction 27

Lift It! 29

Friction Ramp 30

Rocket Zip Line 33

Marvelous Laws of Motion: Newton's First Law 35

Milk Jug Rocket Cone 36

Save the Rocket 37

Marvelous Laws of Motion: Newton's Second Law 39

Rocket Race 41

Ball Collision Ramp 42

Moon Buggy Race 45

Marvelous Laws of Motion: Newton's Third Law 47

Film Canister Rocket 49

Streamline a Bottle Rocket 51

Water Powered Bottle Rocket 52

Amazing Air Resistance 55

Coffee Filter Parachute 56

Feel the Force 57

Let's Glide 59

Let's Launch! 61

Mobile Launch Pad 62

Rocket Launch Station for a Bottle Rocket 63

Crazy Combustion and Chemical Reactions 65

Balloon Rocket 67

Speed It up 68

Which Nozzle Size? 69

Baking Soda-Powered Cork Rocket 70

Pump It Out 73

Tricky Trajectory 75

Squeezy Bottle Rocket 76

Flight Path Angles 77

Foam Rocket 79

Living in Space 81

Strong Suit 83

Keeping Warm 84

Solar Power 85

Sun Safe 86

Can You Balance? 89

Clean It Up! 90

Growing Taller 92

Stop the Floating Food! 93

Space Circuits 95

Dehydrate It! 96

Rehydrate It! 99

Landscaped Landing 101

Parachute 103

Drop It! 104

Lift with Balloons 106

Feeling the Burn 107

Super Solar System 109

In the Shadows 111

Space Camp Stargazing 112

Walk the Solar System 113

Newton's Cradle 114

Filter Paper Chromatography Planets 117

Revolving Solar System 118

Constellation Dot-to-Dots 120

Space Probe 121

Spin Art Galaxies 123

Popping Planets 124

Where Is Space? 127

Balloon-Powered Moon Buggy 128

How Dense? 131

Play Dough Earth Layers 132

Mercury and Magnets 134

Mars and Its Moons 135

Olympus Mons 137

Red Martian sand 138

Give Saturn a Bath 139

Lava Flows on Venus 140

Stormy Jupiter 143

Windy Neptune 144

Rolling Uranus 146

Static Electricity Rockets 147

Rockets on Ice 149

Resources 151

Acknowledgments 153

About the Author 155

Index 156

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