NewsScience Sundays


Science Sundays: How to Make a Stomp Rocket

How to Build a Stomp Rocket
Posted at 1:59 PM, Oct 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 18:46:27-05

During a typical school year, our 23ABC Chief Meteorologist makes dozens of appearances at Kern County schools to talk about environmental science and promote both stem education and literacy. But this year, since Elaina can't be in a classroom due to COVID-19, she found a way to bring her passion for science straight to the schoolkids learning at home.

Hey Kern County! Welcome to Science Sundays: Experiments with Elaina Rusk.

As we know, our teachers are working harder than ever, and I have been searching for a way to help them out. Then it dawned on me: "Why don't I take over the science lesson for the day?" I get back into the classroom which is one of my favorite parts of this job, and I get to give our teachers a little bit of a break and help provide some curriculum.

That idea has now blossomed into an incredible partnership with scientists around Kern County! We will show a science experiment or demonstration with lessons geared toward students of all ages.

So let us take the lesson from here! This week's demonstration? How to build a stomp rocket with our friends at California Resources Corporation!

Science Sundays: How to make a stomp rocket

"My name is Amanda Callahan, I'm a senior reservoir engineer at California Resources Corporation, and I'm going to be demonstrating a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory experiment on stomp rockets.

To assemble the rocket, you need a half-inch PVC pipe. The reason it's half-inch is because that's what's going to fit exactly into a 2-liter bottle. So make sure it's exactly half-inch PVC.

Then you're going to wrap the first piece of paper around and you don't want it too tight because then when you launch your rocket it's not going to release it and it's going to get stuck. So wrap it around and give it a little bit of give so that your pipe is moving pretty easily.

Once you have that in place, just take some normal scotch tape and start taping along the side to make sure that it's not going to come apart. Any scotch tape will work. It doesn't need to be very strong. We'll use the duct tape on the rocket launcher because that's where most of the pressure is going to come from.

If you don't have construction paper, printer paper would work. I'm just using the colored paper because it's a bit more fun. But you can use any paper such as scrap paper or even newspaper would work as long as you wrap it tightly.

For the next part, you can find templates on JPL's website, which is at the bottom as well, and we're basically going to cut one of these into a cone, and that's where the cone in the top comes from. Depending on the design of your cone, you may want a more narrow cone, a wider cone, you can see how that affects the drag effect on the rocket.

I'm just going to freehand one. And to do this, basically, the flat side is going to be your point. and wrap around until you have as tight a cone as you want. And then the same thing here, I'm just going to put a piece of scotch tape over it. And now you can see that it's kind of big for my rocket, so I'm going to trim a bit of my cone off. So that looks about the size of the cone I want.

And the same thing, I'll just scotch tape that onto the end. And for this part, the cone is pretty important in terms of the direction of your rocket flying. So if you have a crooked cone, you'll probably see your rocket go kind of a little wonky when it launches so try to keep it as straight as possible with your rocket.

The last step is to do your fins. These are optional but a lot of times they can help with stability. And the same thing, I'm just going to freehand some of these. And there's no specific design for the fins, you can do them however you want. Some people do triangles, some people do trapezoids, you can try different things and see how they affect your rocket.

You can build separate rockets, especially if you have more than one child, or you can modify your rocket.

One thing that we like to do is if you notice that your fins are causing a problem, or your nose is causing a problem, take that part off and just replace it with something different. That also gives you a chance to see if you only change one thing at a time, you're kind of following the scientific method and you can see if I change only the fins out, then that was the effect of the fins. If I change only the nose out, but everything else is the same, I know it was the nose.

I'm just going to use some triangle fins on this one, and just put a piece of tape on both sides to kind of hold them out. Now because I haven't taped the pieces together, I kind of have a six fin design, so we can try that one, and depending on how that one works they can tape them together, switch to three fins, but it gives me lots of options. Now I've got 2 rockets to test. I'll set those aside.

And now the rocket launcher assembly.

This, as I said, is a half-inch PVC pipe, and you can get this at any hardware store. They'll also cut it for you if you don't have a saw.

The instructions on NASA's website will tell you how long all the pieces should be, but in total, you need about five feet of half-inch PVC. I went ahead and pre-cut these and labeled them with the piece number so I know how to assemble it.

I'm just going to follow the instructions and I'll show you how it gets put together.

I'm just assembling it with the instructions based on my pre-cut sizes. And with these you want to be sure they're as tight as possible, you don't have to glue them together, but any gaps for air are basically going to make your rocket lose power because we're going to launch all the air from the bottle here to the end of the rocket. So if any comes out, it's probably not going to work as well.

You can see I have two legs basically forming here, and I want to make sure this is the flattest piece because that's where the bottle is going to attach. And then I can kind of balance it with my legs, and then this is where the rocket is going to go.

You have to put caps on anything that's open that you aren't going to be launching the bottle or the rocket from, so these two are the ones that get caps on the bottom. If you don't have the caps you can also duct tape them, and that'll probably work as well.

Then we're going to take a two-liter bottle, try and get the thinnest plastic you can find. We're about to jump on the bottle, so when you jump it might crack if you have a thicker plastic bottle.

All I'm going to do is put a tiny bit of the bottle on top of the pipe, and make sure that I have a seal with some duct tape. For this part, you really do need the duct tape because we're about to put a lot of pressure on this joint. Just try to be sure you get it as smooth as possible to make sure it's a sealed joint.

Now we have the rocket launcher assembly. When we're ready to launch I'm basically going to put my rocket onto here and jump onto the bottle.

Now that we have our rocket launcher set up outside, a couple of safety things: you want to make sure everyone has safety goggles on because these are going to take off really fast, you also want to make sure if you're pointing the launcher out instead of up, that you don't have anyone, or cars, pets, anyone downstream because they can go several hundred feet.

After that make sure everyone is on this side of the bottle. You can load your rocket and again, make sure that it's loose and it's actually going to take off.

When you're ready, jump on the bottle with both feet, and that is the stomp rocket!

After you've launched it, when you're ready to do another launch, make sure you have the same person doing it, and just blow into the end to be sure you're reinflating the bottle. And you'll see that it reinflated, it's not cracked, so I can use this bottle again.

Now I'm going to try my other rocket, and the same thing, when I'm ready I'm going to jump on top with both feet.

You can see both of my rockets had a kind of different action. One basically went straight up, this one with my trapezoid fins basically spun off to the side. But both of them went super high!

And this is basically reusable, so I can keep changing my design, adjusting my launcher, to get kind of the effect you want.

If you're interested in learning more about energy and the benefits of oil and gas in California, you can find out more at and if you're interested in CRC and what we do, you can visit"