Launch Your Own (Paper) Rocket

Last weekend at CONvergence, we got to do a science! A lot of sciences, really. In the Skepchick Space Lab, folks made handheld comets, built kaleidoscopes, constructed little bridges, launched hot air balloons, and loaded paper airplanes with cargo. And down in Connie’s Quantum Sandbox, we had Paper Rocket Races!

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In addition to our awesome scientist paper dolls, these paper crafts and activities are just some of the super-fun things we’ve gotten to do at CONvergence over the last few years. Since not everyone gets to join us at the convention, here’s a little piece of it to take home and play with.

How to Build Your Own Paper Rocket That Flies

Gather all your pieces

not quite enough stuff to get a really good Knolling.

To make this flying paper rocket, you’ll need paper, scissors, tape, a pencil and a straw. Bendy straws work well, and they’re fun, but a regular straw will also work as long as it’s longer than your rocket-paper. You can download the Mad Art Lab template here.

Cut out the rocket parts

This obviously requires a photo.

You can use our template, or draw and cut our your own pieces in any size you like. Want a colorful rocket? Try construction paper, or color your pieces before putting them together.

Get some tape ready

tape tape tape tape tape

Pulling pieces of tape off a roll one-handed is way harder than you’d think. It’s far easier to put everything together when you’ve got already-cut tape, so line up a few pieces on the edge of a table or another flat, smooth surface.

Roll up the rocket body

highly scientific, you can tell by the grid.

Take the big square of paper and roll it into a nice tube around the pencil. This is a good size to start with.  Roll it just tight enough so you will be able to slide the pencil out, and put a couple of pieces of tape on to hold it together.

Make the nose cone

paperRocket-nosePacMan paperRocket-noseOverlap paperRocket-noseHand

This is probably the most fiddly/difficult part. Snip the little pie-piece out of your circle, so you’ve got a little paper Pac-Man. Overlap the two sides, and twist the circle into a little cone that will fit on the end of your paper tube. Tape it together… it’s okay if it’s not pretty, and you can try again if you want.

Attach the nose cone


Put the cone on one end of the tube, and tape all the way around. This might not be too pretty either, but as long as you’ve got it sealed all the way around you’ll be good to go.

Add the wings

what has wings, but does not flap?

Add tape to the long edges of the triangle pieces and attach them to the bottom of the tube. Or the middle. Or tape the short edge. I’m not the boss of you.

Launch your rocket!

pew! pew! pew!

Slide your completed rocket onto the straw. To launch, blow!

Now, what can you do to make your rocket fly higher/faster/farther? Does it make a difference if you blow harder? Would more or different wings affect flight, or just weigh things down? What about building a shorter or longer rocket? Or using different paper?

Project Credit: Carmelo the Science Fellow

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Beth Voigt

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and public transit and is still on her first smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around.

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