Project Alert: Design a Soda Bottle Rocket

Design a Soda Bottle Rocket

In this project students will design and print a nose cone and a set of fins to turn a soda bottle into a retro-rocket!


Compressed air rockets have proven to be one of the most universally successful, and core content rich, activities to engage students of all ages in STEM study. Using Tinkercad to design the nose cone and tail fins allows for customization and a deeper study of the math and physics involved in rocket flight. Plus the results are just cool looking!

The dimensions provided work with an 18 oz. Crystal Geyser Sparkling Mineral Water bottle, but it is hoped that more advanced students will seek out alternative bottles requiring measurement and adjustment of dimensions.

Learning outcomes

This project assumes some basic familiarity with the Tinkercad interface and navigation, but explains and reinforces many fundamental concepts of 3D design. It is hoped that the design and manufacturing of the rockets is the first phase of a project that includes actual launching, collecting and analyzing data and using the data to inform future iterations. The learning outcomes will deepen depending on how far one wants to take it.

By completing the project using the same bottle shown, students will learn:

  • Basic Tinkercad skills such as duplicating, aligning and grouping fundamental shapes to make composite shapes.
  • Using the ruler and rotation tools more precisely

Those designing for a different bottle will also learn:

  • Advanced measurement skills including precision and tolerance.
  • The importance of making minimally viable prototypes to test specific features such as thread fit.

Launching the rockets can produce many additional learning opportunities including:

  • Estimating the height of the rocket by various means and comparing results using:
  • Trig concepts of angle of elevation
  • Algebra concepts of function and relationship to psi and height (or distance)
  • Physics concepts of acceleration of gravity
  • Statistical data analysis from basic mean, median and mode to standard deviation and beyond

Additional Resources

Rocket Design Info

Check out this comprehensive resource from NASA. Another excellent resource from New Zealand (Who knew?)

Making a Launcher

There are many places on the web to find instructions for building a PVC rocket launcher. One of my favorites was developed by superstar Maker Educator Rick Schertle and is one of the Weekend Projects available at Make. A modification of the design is available at Instructables. Note: To fit inside a standard soda bottle, your launching tube should be 1/2″ Schedule 40 pvc. This pdf from TryEngineering has some great modifications for making a water rocket launcher.


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