I'm planning on getting a model rocket in the near future to fire off w/ my 2 daughters (9 and 11). I'm going to require first that they learn how/why rocket engines and parachutes work (so they can explain it to me in detail). I searched Amazon and Google books for a while and found plenty of books on space, but none that focus on the physics behind rocket propulsion and none that I was confident that would go into the kind of detail I'm looking for in a simple way. I want more than just an blog or video online because I want them to learn in depth from a reliable source. I'm completely green to the subject and am looking forward to learning myself. While they are only 9 and 11, they are bright and I'd like to stretch them. Does anyone know of a detailed, but simple explanation of the physics behind model rocket engines and parachutes?


To clarify... Right now if I asked my daughters how a model rocket works, they'd tell me "you push the button and it goes in the air". I'm trying to teach them to ask "Why?" and to give them some experience finding answers. The answer to "Why?" might be "something is expanding inside the rocket and can only escape out of the hole in the bottom and the pressure pushes the rocket away from the earth overcoming gravity". "Well, what's expanding and why?" You get the picture. I don't expect them to be learning formulas or anything.


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    $\begingroup$ "simple" and "detailed"... which is more important? $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Jun 20 '15 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ IMHO, at 9 and 10 they don't need to learn the theory, just teach them to experiment SAFELY with simple bottle rockets and balloons. You can make a working parachute out of plastic foil, a trash bag, some string and clear tape will do. If they get that at their age now and they are interested, by 12 or 13 they will know the theory by researching it on their own and by 23 they will be ready to join Elon Musk on his way to Mars. Trust your children to figure it out on their own! $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Jun 20 '15 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne I can appreciate that. I updated my question. I guess the main thing I'm trying to teach them is the value in asking "Why?" and how to go about answering that question. I very much want to teach them to teach themselves. $\endgroup$ – Stinky Jun 20 '15 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ How do rockets work? Get a skateboard and a 4ish kilogram exercise ball. Place the skateboard on a level surface, mount, balance and throw away from where you want to go. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jun 20 '15 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielSank For this audience I would definitely say simple. If I was at a book store in the children's section, I would say detailed. $\endgroup$ – Stinky Jun 20 '15 at 19:11

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