How to Make a DIY Rocket You Can Launch From Home
A family activity for all future NASA rocket engineers!
Grownups aren't the only ones that can design, build, and fly a rocket. No need to buy expensive model rockets, engines, or generators to send creations skyward, either. Kids can just choose their propulsion style — air, fire, rubber band — and hit up a hardware store to create a DIY rocket they can launch from their own backyard...or any safe, obstacle-free area close to home.
Baking Soda and Vinegar Rocket
What do volcanoes and rockets have in common? Answer: kids can make DIY versions of both with everyone’s favorite reactive chemicals, baking soda and vinegar. Andrew W.K. show will show them how they can launch a rocket made of a two-liter bottle using pantry staples for power. (We do not recommend launching this rocket indoors—this thing really moves.)
DIY Stomp Rockets
Even NASA scientists love stomp rockets, the birthday-party-activity favorite that uses your own jumping, stomping power to send foam-and-plastic rockets onto your friends’ roof—or up into nearby trees. We have some available at the Camp store, or you could give your kid these instructions from a scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech. (Yeah, that’s some real rocketeering street cred right there.) They can create their launch pad from PVC pipes and the ever-so-useful two-liter soda bottle, and make their rocket out of paper, then take the whole set-up outside and start the countdown!
Alka Seltzer Film Canister Rocket
Little rockets can still be big fun, especially when kids want to make a rocket they can safely launch indoors. They'll need to acquire some plastic film canisters — these will form the body of the mini-rocket. A little water and an Alka Seltzer tablet will serve as the reactive rocket fuel to propel those film canisters into the air.
Air pressure and chemicals are all right, but sometimes what you really want is firepower. Grant Thompson, a.k.a. The King of Random, can teach your kid how to build a tiny yet mighty rocket using match heads, wooden skewers, and aluminum foil. His clever design is portable — because they'll definitely want to find an open space, like an empty parking lot, to launch these little missiles. Thompson claims they can fly up to 40 feet and leave an impressive smoke trail in their wake. (Check out the rest of his YouTube channel for more advanced home rocket building that definitely requires parental supervision.)
Water Bottle Rocket
Newton said, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If knowledge is power, you kid can use their knowledge of his third law of motion to power a water bottle rocket. Their soda bottle design will be similar to the baking soda-and-vinegar rocket, but the propulsion won’t come from a chemical reaction. Instead, the Sci Guys demonstrate how to use a bike pump to increase the air pressure in the rocket, which forces the plug out of the bottle, sending the water pouring out of the bottle (action) and the rocket soaring into the sky (reaction). This experiment is dubbed NSFH (not safe for home), so have the kids take the launch party outside.
Plastic Straw Rocket
Our friends at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab might spend their time inventing technology to aid in space exploration, but they also know how to liven up a rainy day with easy DIY plastic straw rockets. Your kid won't need a Texas-sized launch site to shoot off these tiny paper rockets. A big breath and a straw will send them soaring across the living room. Once they master the design, then let the competition begin! Have kids experiment with the size and design of the rocket’s fins and nose cone, or even the type of paper they use to build the body, so they can see which design will fly the farthest.
Foam Rocket Flinger
Yes, the very serious folks at the Arizona Science Center will teach you how to build a rubber-band powered rocket that kids can fling — ahem, launch, at their siblings, friends, and dog. The fuselage is a pool noodle, the fins are cardboard, and the fuel is that rubber band they may already know how to let fly with a quick finger flick. This easy indoor rocket will teach them about science, but it’s probably best if they don’t launch it at family members and pets.
Updated June 2022