The Official IPWRS Quick and Dirty Launcher is
easy to build, low pressure launcher to use with young children. After
a short demonstration, kids can operate it safely with little
A rubber stopper will not contain more than about 30 PSI, which is fine
for fun launches, and is easy for ten year olds to pump up manually.
children can be encouraged to stuff their own stoppers, and the
pressure of launch will decline in proportion to the child's strength.
With this launcher it is possible to perform more than a shot per
It also looks cool. I find my rubber stoppers in Scientific Supply Co.
catalogs, although I hear they are available from brewing supply
The drain pipe is scrounged. Think at least one launcher and five or six bottles per
twenty kids. A slight shortage of bottles will ensure that the
rockets are recovered after every launch.
Some like to have the children 'make' their own
rockets. This can be tricky, but it can work. Fin constructioncan
consuming and confusing in a large group. In a drop-in situation,
I prepare a bunch of rockets with robust fins beforehand.
If I am visiting a classroom, or doing this with an unfamiliar or unwieldy group, I like to print up A - Z "Actually I AM A Rocket Scientist!" tags and hand them out. They can be tickets, pins, or go on a lanyard around the neck. Then we launch in alphabetic order, and when we are done, the kids keep their tags. Otherwise ask a teacher or parent to keep track of the launch order. It can become a real headache, and if you are nice enough to lead this activity, you don't deserve it!
Little kids will step on the pumps' hoses and break
them. I bind them against the pump body. Sand and water
will also destroy a bike pump. Bring spares and simple tools in
case you need to do a field repair.
With young children, I like to use my foot
pump. I have had to wire it down to a board and bind it so it
doesn't extend fully. Our legs are stronger than our arms.
There is a pinch danger, but I haven't seen in happen yet during many
launches at the Santa Fe Children's Museum.