Princeton University
Physics Department
Readymade Rocket Science
Detailed Project Description
Detailed Technical Information

Synopsis: We seek to address growing student dissatisfaction with the laboratory portion of introductory physics courses. The basic idea is to replace the traditional series of short (three-hour) sessions with an ongoing project that covers the entire semester, or a significant fraction thereof. Students fashion simple water rockets from two-liter PET-plastic soda bottles and other commonly available items. The rockets are launched using a system based on pressurized air from a bicycle pump. Each rocket is instrumented with a self-contained electronic accelerometer, which acquires a record of acceleration versus time throughout an approximately seven-second flight. After the flight, the accelerometer is recovered and the data is uploaded for subsequent analysis on personal computers running MATLAB or a similar plotting and analysis package. Students first learn to use their accelerometers in a set of ground based experiments, before conducting a series of launches.

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