Group projects are often dreadful. It can be hard to coordinate with everyone’s busy schedule, procure materials, and evenly divide the workload. Fortunately, my recent class project in AME 309: Dynamics of Fluids did not come with the typical group project headaches.

Our assignment was to create a water bottle rocket. Yeah like the one kids make, except this time using the principles we had learned throughout the semester.  The main concern was to determine the amount of water, and the pressure conditions necessary for maximum apogee height. We started by deriving the equations necessary, and then running test simulations on Matlab. In this way, we could not only change water volume and pressure variables, but also variables such as ballast weight, outside temperature, and wind speed in order to get an accurate water bottle rocket simulation, and determine the optimal water volume and launch pressure.

Other requirements were things such as the water bottle could be no more than 17oz, only one water bottle could be used as a reservoir, and decent speed had to be 5 m/s.

My personal favorite part was fabricating the rocket. While some people 3D printed the nose cone and fins of their rocket, my team took a very DIY approach and headed to the Fab Lab located on campus. The Fab Lab is a great resource on campus because there are a bunch of tools and materials that students can use to build pretty much whatever they want. There’s even a 3D printer and laser printer for student use!

Using a carbonated smart water bottle, a coke bottle, used 3D printed fins, and some extra materials we found hanging around the lab, we were able to construct our rocket below! And for DIY, I’d say our rocket is pretty dope.



Completed Rocket

The day of the competition, our team had to be at the baseball field by 6:00 am. Yep 6:00 am. Shoutout to Professor Radovich who provided a full spread for breakfast as well as some much needed coffee. We were able to do as many trial runs as we needed throughout the morning in order to get quality data regarding our rocket’s performance.

While our rocket didn’t reach the highest, and we had to make some water volume adjustments on the fly (here’s a good pun) in order to increase the height the rocket reached, our rocket performance remained consistent throughout the morning.

For every trial, our rocket launched, deployed a parachute (made of a grocery shopping, floss, and sprinkled with baby powder as to not stick together), and came back down safely.


Final Design: Parachute, Fins, and Nose Cap

Final Design: Parachute, Fins, and Nose Cap

Many of the rockets  got great height, but didn’t have parachutes that deployed causing their rockets to have a crash landing, and many broken parts.

Check out one of our trials:

While I wasn’t looking forward to going to school at 6 am, I had a fun morning, and enjoyed a successful rocket launch with my teammates!

If you found this exciting, check out Rocket Lab where REAL students are building REAL rockets to launch into space.

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