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Mountain Middle School students blast off with rockets

Eighth graders launch 2-liter bottles during presentation
A water rocket made by Mountain Middle School students launches Thursday morning. Students completed multiple test runs before their final try during competition. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Mountain Middle School students were ready for liftoff Thursday morning.

Eighth grade science students took to the courtyard to launch rockets for their physics unit.

The rockets were made from a 2-liter bottle, popsicle sticks, cardboard and foam cutouts. The projectiles were powered by water pressure created by a bike pump attached to a mechanism at the bottom of the rocket.

The students’ main objective was to learn about Newton’s laws of motion. However, they were also competing to see which group could launch their rocket the highest without breaking an egg place inside the rocket’s nosecone.

Students had to present to a crowd of about 25 parents. They shared their testing results and discussed the multiple variations they made to their rockets.

The students evaluated rocket constraints such as how much water pressure the 2-liter bottle could hold and the weight of the object.

Mountain Middle School eighth graders prepare their rockets for launch on Thursday. Students used bicycle pumps to created water pressure to shoot objects into the air. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

“They've done four different prototypes. So this is their final build of the rockets,” said eighth grade science teacher Dakota Isaak. “And the goal is the highest rocket that keeps the egg intact.”

Some students utilized design concepts from NASA and SpaceX while others toyed with ideas of their own. A few groups even played with the idea of creating a parachute out plastic grocery bags.

The parachute was an attempt to soften the blow once the rocket hit the ground in order to preserve the egg.

Isaak said students had the ability to bring in recycled materials from home.

Originally, some students used streamers to soften contact with the ground but found they did not create enough resistance.

In some instances, students said additions to their rockets were too heavy and had to adjust their flight in order to achieve maximum altitude. In turn, many evaluated how to create the most acceleration possible based purely on the pressurized water.

Earlier in the day, students presented more in-depth about their projects. Students shared more about their design process and why they decided to pursue the shapes they chose.

This is the fourth year that Mountain Middle School students have completed the rocket launch project, said Shane Voss, school executive director.

The school has been successful with its project-based methodology. It has won the “performance with distinction” accreditation multiple times from the state Department of Education over the last decade.


Mountain Middle School students pump air into water rockets in preparation for launch Thursday during a demonstration. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

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