Product Review: Scientific Explorer Rocket Car

Dani Weigand

Spring means focusing on getting outside with products from Planet Fun Clark Planetarium Store. Last week, we highlighted some of our favorite outdoor products. This week, I teamed up with store manager Mike Sheehan to test my rocket building skills and set out to create, and launch, the Scientific Explorer Rocket Car.

Assembly: The kit retails for $19.95 and includes all the pieces you’ll need to create your rocket car. All you’ll need to contribute is some glue to place the fin on the top of the car and the baking soda and vinegar required for the fuel source.

The car is recommended for children ages 9 and up, but children will strongly benefit from having an adult help them with the creation process. Good news is that the instructions are self explanatory and easy to follow. Note: As you move to placing the wheels on the car, you will want to test the car on the ground to see if your wheels are aligned correctly and moving freely (a step I did not fine tune enough for my first car, resulting in it pulling to the left).

Performance: After your car is built, you will want to make sure to read and accurately follow the directions for the baking soda and vinegar mixture. Mike and I wanted our car to go farther and faster, so we added double the amount of vinegar which resulted in too much pressure building up in the fuel module too quickly and shooting it out the back of the car instead of propelling it forward.

When we correctly followed the instructions for our fuel ingredients and adjusted the dial on the back of the car, we had fun watching the chemical reaction bubble and fizz until enough pressure built up in the chamber and shot our car down the sidewalk and street. As we tested the car on the sidewalk outside the Clark Planetarium, we had many interested passers-by that got a kick out of the reaction. We did get some footage of a launch on the street which you can see here:

[quicktime]http://www.clarkplanetarium.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/rocket-car.mov[/quicktime]

Pointers: Overall, this was a fun activity to get us outside with a chemistry/physics demonstration to boot. Things you’ll want to pay attention to when creating your own rocket car are, again, testing the wheels to make sure the car rides straight. Launching the car on a smooth surface also helps it go further. And lastly, don’t stand directly behind the car while you are waiting for it to launch. When it blasts off, it shoots a stream of the baking soda and vinegar mixture out the back of the car. We had one of our store staff get splattered with the stuff and while we all got a kick out of it, the mixture is pretty smelly. We got footage of that too as well as some other misfires we had while we were playing around…

[quicktime]http://www.clarkplanetarium.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/rocket-car-blooper-reel.mov[/quicktime]

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