Paper Rockets – Flying Farther

Engineering NASA Science
Time 1 hour
Age 7 & up
Group Size 4 or more
Tags Astronomy, Design, Experiment,   more...
Measurement NASA Problem Solving Rockets Science Solar System Space Teamwork

Next stop, the moon!

Engineering activities give kids a chance to develop problem solving and observations skills, to work with interesting and engaging tools and materials, and to learn how to work as a member of a team. In this activity, children get a chance to do all that—and to launch their creations into the air!


If you have not already done it, start with the Paper Rockets activity from this curriculum.

These rockets fly a long way, so this activity should be done outdoors or in a gymnasium or cafeteria. Keep the extra bicycle inner tube and 2-liter soda bottles on hand in case any part of the rocket launcher breaks. Set up a launch area outside or in a gymnasium or cafeteria. If you can, create a defined landing area with tape, chalk (if outside) or string. See Figure 1 in Resources below for two suggested layouts.

Paper Rockets – Flying Farther

Suggested Materials

  • Copy paper (50 sheets)
  • 3″ X 5″ index cards (50)
  • Invisible tape (10 rolls)
  • Homemade rocket launcher from the Paper Rockets activity
  • Extra bicycle tire inner tube (24″)
  • Extra pieces of PVC pipe (1″ Inner Diameter, about 1 5/16″ Outer Diameter, 12″–18″ long)
  • Extra empty, clean 2-liter soda bottles
  • Large paper clips, pennies or small washers (100-200)
  • Scissors (10)
  • Markers

Make it Matter

Opening Discussion

Ask your students what they did last time you did the Paper Rockets activity. Did their rockets fly far and straight? Do they think they can make them fly even farther and straighter? What are some things they might change about their design to make that happen?

The Challenge

Design, build and launch a rocket that travels as far and as straight as possible.


Make it Happen

Doing the Activity

  1. Have students work in the same teams as they did in the Paper Rockets activity.
  2. Remind teams of the challenge (far and straight) and review the materials they have to use.
  3. Teams can make changes to the rockets that they made in the last session or they can build new rockets as they try different design elements. Encourage them to start from scratch if they have some new ideas to try.
  4. Build the rockets! If you are doing this activity inside your afterschool classroom, there will be no test launching until you take them to the launch area. Teams will have to throw their rockets to judge how well they will travel. If you are doing the activity outside or in the indoor launching spot, students can bring their prototypes to you to perform test launches.

Make it Click

Let’s Talk About It

After 10–20 minutes, when teams have done some testing of their new designs, bring them all together to talk about what they have discovered. What have they changed about their rockets to help them fly? Have each team show their rocket to the other teams. Some things to look for (don’t tell teams about these tips – let them figure these things out themselves, or learn about them when other teams mention them):

Look for these design elements and if you see any teams using a closed nose, weight, fins or a particular launch angle, point it out and ask them to describe how their rocket flew before they added the fins, weight, etc and how it did afterward.


Make it Better

Build On What They Talked About

After hearing from each team, send them back to complete the construction of their rockets. If any of the design elements mentioned above did not come up in the large group conversation, find ways to ask each team questions that will help lead them to discovering these ideas. If you would like, encourage teams to come up with a name for their rockets and to add designs to them with markers before the final launch.

When all teams have completed their rockets, bring them to the launch area and have a big “Blast-Off” where each team will talk about their design, the choices they made and then will launch their creations. Use a measuring tape or yardsticks to measure the distances traveled.



Earth and Space science activities were developed with the support of NASA. This material is based upon work supported by NASA under grant award number NNX14AQ83G. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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