Baking Soda Rocket – Experiment

Here’s an exciting one that your kids will love! Any form of bottle rocket might seem like a challenge, but the ‘Baking Soda Rocket’ experiment uses only common household items and objects. It’s a nice blend of DIY and household Science. Just be sure to take charge of the trickier steps to avoid mishaps.

You will need:

  • Materials for a launch pad (e.g. cardboard, building sticks/blocks)
  • An empty plastic bottle
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Strong Tape
  • A table spoon
  • A paper towel
  • A cork (optional)

Method:

  • Whether you want to start with building the rocket first or the launch pad is up to you. But for the latter, there’s a number of different ways to do so. I simply stuck with cardboard, rolling one side to form a cylinder and then taping it so it wouldn’t unravel. When doing this, it’s important to keep in mind the size of your bottle and the sturdiness of your cardboard. Just to note: your bottle will be placed upside-down on the launchpad, so you have to make sure it can stand upright.
  • Next up is the rocket itself, if you haven’t done so already remove the lid and rinse the bottle. Take your vinegar and pour in roughly one or two cups worth into the bottle. Depending on the size of your bottle, adjust the amounts to how you see fit. This will simply be part of the “rocket fuel”, so you can experiment with different amounts.
  • The second part to creating your fuel will involve the baking soda and paper towel. Grab a large spoonful of baking soda and place it in the middle of the paper towel. Once again, you can experiment with different amounts, but the more you use the BIGGER the blast off! After that, wrap the baking soda in your paper towel and firmly fit it into the mouth of the bottle.
  • The final step in making your rocket is sealing the bottle back up with a cork. If you don’t have one, you can make a homemade one using thick cardboard. Just be weary when doing this, as if you don’t seal the bottle properly or your cardboard is too thin, the fuel of your rocket may leak out when tipped upside-down. You can also substitute the cork for other objects, such as aluminium foil or a pool noodle piece. Just be careful in not accidentally dislodging the paper towel wrap baking soda from the mouth of the bottle.
  • With that, your bottle rocket should be ready for lift-off! Find a big, open space outside and prepare your launch pad and bottle rocket. When you’re good and ready, tip the bottle upside-down, place it onto your launch pad and quickly step back and watch your rocket fly (hopefully). And that’s the ‘Baking Soda Rocket’ experiment – I hope you enjoyed it!

The Science Bit:

So, how does the fuel in your rocket work to make it fly? For this, we’re going to be learning about chemical reactions! The fuel in your rocket is composed of baking soda and vinegar, which (when exposed to each other) releases carbon dioxide that builds up inside the bottle. This CO2 (carbon dioxide) causes pressure to build up inside the bottle due to the cork trapping the reaction inside. Eventually, the gases contained in the bottle will build up too much pressure for the cork to handle and will explode out of the end of the bottle. This sudden release of built up pressure will LAUNCH the rocket into the sky, propelling the rocket in the opposite direction to where the gas was released. The more pressure that was built up beforehand, the higher the rocket will fly!