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Propel a wheeled vehicle along using a plastic bottle


Core National Curriculum links

Science, DT, Maths

Other National Curriculum links

Literacy: Instructions, labelled diagrams

Main engineering principles

  • Pupils are engaged in the purposeful practical problem solving
  • Pupils take ownership of the design and make process
  • Pupils embrace and learn from failure
  • Pupils draw on a range of thinking skills and personal capabilities


A series of lessons


System thinking, Adapting, Visualising, Improving

EDP stages

Create, Improve

Resources required

Lengths of wood 15mm x 15mm, dowel rod to go through wheels. Sheet wood 3mm thickness. Glue gun, scissors, saw, wood glue. drill, axle holders elastic bands, rubber wheel stopers a plastic water bottl

Summary of activity

Design and make a water powered rocket car using a plastic bottle.

To open the activity

Can I make a water powered rocket that will travel 10 metres or more?

The main activity

Measure and cut out a chasis (note that basic measureing, cutting glueing and drawing skill lessons might be needed prior to this. Safe use of saws and table jigs must be taught.

Make the chasis.

Think about where and how the bottle will be attached.

Attach axle holders, wheels.

Pupils needs to think about the strength and movement of wheels.

Challenge and support

Support the measuring and cutting. Challenge: may be use 45 degee joints could get pupils to make their own axle holders.

To finish the activity

How could you make the car go further? How esle could you power the car?

Learn from me (what worked well for us)

Some cars might fly into the air and then smash. Check that your pump fits the bottles first and make sure you purchase one before hand.

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