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Engineering Estes Rockets Level 1 - Unit Plan

Engineering Estes Rockets Level 1 - Unit Plan

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Grades 9-12 | 10 (45 min) Classes

In this unit, students will answer the question, How can we use the Engineering Design Process to design, build, and launch a safe and stable model rocket by repurposing parts from the Estes warehouse?

Students will act as engineers working for Estes Industries, the world leader in model rocket manufacturing. Estes has a warehouse full of parts that need to be either thrown away or repurposed. Estes would rather not throw them away since these parts are expensive and they do not wish to contribute excess trash in landfills. They know that solid waste can contribute to greenhouse gasses when methane is created from wastes decaying in landfills. In turn, those greenhouse gasses trap warmth in Earth’s atmosphere and cause a rise of Earth’s temperatures. Thus, reusing these parts is important to them.

Estes has challenged a group of engineers to design a new model rocket that uses only these parts. The rockets must be stable, include a recovery system, be aesthetically pleasing, and have a name. The rocket must meet the needs of the identified end user.

For each of the Designer’s Special kits purchased, students will work collaboratively to create 5 safe and stable rockets. They will need to coordinate their designs to ensure each group has the parts they need. Students will test the stability of their rockets using the Swing Test and redesign as necessary. They will decide what types of qualitative and quantitative data to collect during the launch to prove to the Estes Product Development team that their rocket had a stable and successful flight.

For their final assessment, students will create an infographic that describes the characteristics of a stable rocket and successful launch and highlights their rocket’s success.

Note: This Level 1 lesson is an introduction to the process of designing, building, and testing rockets. It does not include use of calculations to determine center of gravity or pressure, or simulations to test rocket stability. Any of those can be added as extensions if your students are more advanced.


Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)


Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.


Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.


  • Developing and using models
  • Using mathematics
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


  • Systems and system models
  • Structure and functions

Common Core Standards - ELA


Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Materials Needed

Each Student Needs:

  • Student Portfolio
  • Safety Goggles
  • Clipboard

The Class Needs:

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