Urgently need rocket alternative
June 29, 2017 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I urgently need an alternative to this which doesn't require access to the outdoors, or a hose and which is interesting but not so dramatic or messy.

I need to demonstrate an explosion/rocket type of thing for children, but I also need to not wreck the community room or cause a hassle for the custodians, so if there's a mess, it needs to be something I can handle with some paper towels.

I have access to a Walgreens, a Target, and I DON'T have access to any outdoor space. Kids are 4th-6th grade or so and there won't be more than 5-10 of them.

I am aware that you can turn the bottom upside-down and shoot a cork instead, but I can't risk also spilling the liquid everywhere. I also might need to work with the group within a larger room of children, and I can't risk shooting a cork into the crowd with any force.

(I am covering a program for someone else who didn't think things through all the way. Naturally, I trusted their judgement. No longer!)
posted by blnkfrnk to Education (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Balloon rockets are not explosive, but they are fast, fun and safe.
posted by BrashTech at 6:25 AM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stomp Rocket? Instructables.
posted by Segundus at 6:39 AM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Compressed air is your best bet in my experience. Balloon rockets are perfect, low energy and controllable (actually we make glove ones because we don't have balloons in the lab as readily).
posted by bonehead at 7:13 AM on June 29, 2017

Anything that is really explosive on that scale or to be handled by kids is likely too energetic to be very safe. Ammonium triiodide is probably one of the safest, but even then it's a little exotic in terms of materials and not 100% safe.
posted by bonehead at 7:15 AM on June 29, 2017

A similar set of principles, btw, and much safer is making vortex cannons. All you need is a cardboard box per child (1.5 cu ft is perfect), some good tape (duct or packing tape) and a knife to cut holes (which you can do). I'd also suggest markers, etc... so kids can decorate their boxes.

Vortex cannons "shoot" air when you whack the sides. You can have competitions to see who can knock over poles of solo cups. You can buy baking flavour essences and have "guess the smell" quizzes (put a drop or two of scent on a tissue and put it in the box---the kids can shoot smells at each other. Mint, banana, work very well). If you can get access to a smoke/fog generator (party stores have em) you can shoot smoke rings.

I've done this with kids as young as 6 and as old as 16. They all have a lot of fun. The whole thing easily takes half a day.
posted by bonehead at 7:22 AM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

An airboat demonstrates the same principle of equal and opposite reaction. You could put the model on wheels if it's to hard to gin up a something to float it.

posted by SemiSalt at 8:01 AM on June 29, 2017

Last year my son made a stomp rocket in a museum, there was no mess at all and while the rocket flew far it can be directed.
Each child was given a card board tube and paper to make the rockets and there were 2 or 3 launchers fashiond from 2liter soda bottles and large diameter garden hose.
posted by 15L06 at 8:42 AM on June 29, 2017

Matchstick rockets?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:25 AM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

The best answers are those for which I can source supplies TODAY, but these are all great ideas. I'm going with balloon rockets (interesting, rocket-related, cheap, flight path is under control) but will use the other ideas later, especially the vortex cannon. Thanks!
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:31 AM on June 29, 2017

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