Physics takes flight Saturday at Tydeman Park

Water rocket festival invites kids to launch pop bottles into the air

By Sarah Glenn

POCATELLO – Last year, old plastic pop bottles soared 120 meters into the air above Tydeman Park – higher than a football field turned on end. Saturday and Sunday they just might go higher.

The Idaho State University physics department is hosting its second annual water rocket festival from 10 a.m. – noon on Saturday and Sunday. ISU will have launchers, supplies and university students on hand to help children build the perfect rocket.

“I wanted to do something over the summer to help buck interest in science and physics,” said event organizer and ISU professor of physics Steve Shropshire. “It’s a way to expose kids to science and make it fun.”

According to Shropshire, the event is probably best suited for older children. Those attending are encouraged to bring their own 2-liter plastic bottle, if possible.

Although most materials will be ready and waiting, local children won’t be left without direction on how to build the best rocket. ISU students will gather children in small groups and host hands-on activities teaching the science behind what makes a rocket soar.

“We will talk about Newtons laws, energy, momentum, inertia – if they listen they will be able to make a better rocket than they normally would,” Shropshire said.

The rockets are launched into the sky by highly pressurizing a mix of air and water. Shropshire says those in attendance should expect to get a little wet when the rockets launch.

“Science is about doing stuff,” Shropshire said. “I don’t want kids to just read about things. I want it in their hands. The best way to learn about science is to do it.”

Children will have leeway on how to strap fins onto dowels, how to create the best nose cone and other design elements. Last year, the rockets that went the highest soared between 120 and 150 feet in the air. This year, the designer of the highest-flying rocket will be given a launcher. Anyone who wants instructions on home-built, bicycle pump-powered water rocket launchers can provide their e-mail address at the time of the event. 

The event is free and open to the public. However, Shropshire encourages anyone attending to drop by the Pocatello Kiwanis Club’s annual pancake and sausage breakfast fundraiser on the other side of the park before heading over.

“They have been really good to help out with science activities for kids,” Shropshire said. “I hope by scheduling it this way we can bring some people to their pancake breakfast.”

The breakfast begins in Tydeman Park at 7 a.m. and continues until noon.

The Pocatello Kiwanis Club helps fund ISU’s haunted science lab in October along with other community science initiatives run through the ISU physics department.

The water rocket event is funded by the Micron Technology Foundation and Idaho State University.

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