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RockSim - Model Rocket Design and Simulation Software is a fascinating tool for those interested in aerodynamics in general, and specifically in designing model rockets. RockSim allows users to take a design -- one of their own creation, or one of many commercially available models -- and play with its design parameters and simulate the resulting changes in performance.
For example, what happens when the shape of a rocket's nose cone is changed from a pointy cone, to a rounded ellipse? Will it fly faster and higher? How about four tail fins instead of three? Or with a bigger engine? RockSim allows a user to quickly model and simulate the effects of these types of changes.
How about changes in the weather? Things like wind speed, turbulence, temperature, humidity, even barometric pressure can impact a rocket's performance -- and RockSim can model and illustrate the impact of the changes.
Many science classes and after school clubs have students build and fly model rockets. Beginners usually start by assembling kits from companies like Estes and Apogee, and some later go on to design and build their own. Those in the latter category typically employ design techniques based on extensions to or variations of known stable models. A few even do some mathematical modeling to try and ensure safety. RockSim allows users to quickly see the likely effects of design changes, hopefully preventing crashes and lost work. This is great as far as it goes. What it does not do, however, is teach the user the underlying math and engineering -- these are hidden behind simple forms and slider controls.
RockSim is a tool, not a game. Those interested in aerodynamics and designing model rockets will find this a captivating program, in that they can play with design ideas and instantly see the results of their changes.
RockSim installed quickly and easily in our test computer. Program navigation and usage is surprisingly intuitive, after getting over the program's initial appearance -- picture opening up Microsoft Word or PowerPoint for the first time. RockSim is a tool waiting to be used, not a program that proactively reaches out and engages it user. The program does include a reasonable tutorial in the 'help' section.
RockSim is a great tool for it's intended audience -- someone interested in aerodynamics and designing model rockets. It would also be a useful classroom tool, to illustrate basic aerodynamic principles. Casual rocketry fans merely interested in assembling and flying models are likely to be less enthused.
PC: Windows NT/2000/XP, 80 MB hard drive space, CD-ROM .return to top of page
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