Hoop Gliders

Hoop gliders are pretty cool cause they look like they shouldn’t really be able to fly as well as they do. Two hoops of paper taped to a soda straw actually fly pretty well. This is a pretty simple activity that you have to try just to see how well it really works! Read more

Make a balloon flinker

A balloon flinker is a fun thing to create if you happen to have some birthday party balloons just floating around the house. The idea is to add just enough weight to the balloon to balance out the lifting force of the helium gas in the balloon. Read more

Imag it 14 - 20101204 - Oobleck

How to make Oobleck

[dropcap1]O[/dropcap1]obleck is a suspension of cornstarch and water that can behave like a solid or a liquid depending on how much pressure you apply. Try to grab some in your hand and it will form a solid ball in your palm just until you release the pressure, then it will flow out between your fingers. Materials that behave this way are classified as non-Newtonian liquids because their flow properties are not described by a constant viscosity.  The name Oobleck comes from the 1949 children’s book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, by Dr. Seuss. In the story a sticky liquid falls from the sky as a result of the king becoming bored with normal weather. Read more

20110712 - WNWO - Mentos

Make a Mentos Fountain

[dropcap1]T[/dropcap1]his is the now classic “mentos fountain” experiment with a little twist … use lifesaver candies. Since Lifesavers have a hole in the middle they are just begging to be strung on a paper clip, held in place with a binder clip and then dropped into a 2 liter bottle of soda! Check out the YouTube video at the bottom where we did this with over 360 bottles of Diet Pepsi and nearly 1,800 mint lifesavers.

What you need:

  • Binder Clip
  • Paper Clip
  • Mint LifeSavers
  • 2 Liter of Diet Soda at room temperature

This experiment should be done outside in an open area because it can get messy!

What to do:

    • Straighten out the paper clip to form a hook.
    • String 5 LifeSavers on the paper clip.
    • Clamp the end of the paper clip in the binder clip.
    • Carefully open the soda bottle without causing too many bubbles.
    • Suspend the LifeSavers in the bottle with the binder clip resting on the rim of the bottle.
    • Pinch open the clip and RUN.

What’s the science?

Soda (Cola or Pop depending on your location) is a liquid that is supersaturated with carbon dioxide gas. This gas will come out of solution if it’s just given a tiny place to start a bubble. These places where bubbles start are called nucleation sites.

Many things can be a nucleation site, a scratch on the inside of a glass, a speck of dust, a rough spot on a piece of candy. Mentos (as well as lifesavers, sweet tarts, etc.) have a lot of rough spots on their surface that allow bubbles to form. Mentos are also heavy enough to fall to the bottom of the bottle so they interact with lots of soda.

Once the bubbles start to form they grow and more gas starts to come out of solution. In a short amount of time there are so many bubbles formed that the pressure builds up and pushes the soda out of the top of the bottle.

In our experiment we created even more pressure by making use of a pre-drilled bottle cap that restricted the flow of liquid out of the bottle. The smaller the hole, the higher and longer the soda will shoot from the bottle.

We used diet cola since it has no sugar and is a bit easier to clean up. You can use whatever cola you have on hand, just be ready to clean it up afterwards.

Make your own Flubber

Flubber is similar to slime in many ways, sort of just a variation on the recipe. The slight change in the amounts of water, borax and glue makes a big difference in the final product. Try for yourself and check this stuff out. Read more

Kid-safe Elephants Toothpaste

Elephants Toothpaste is a fun chemical reaction that creates a huge blob of soapy foam that everyone loves. You may have seen us do this experiment as part of our Extreme Science demonstration with super concentrated hydrogen peroxide. Unless you’re a teacher or science museum it’s difficult to obtain the 30% hydrogen peroxide needed to do this experiment. The peroxide you can buy at a drug store is only 3%. We recently have come across a version, from our friend Steve Spangler, that only requires a 6% solution of peroxide that you can buy from a local hair salon.

The basic science here is that you have hydrogen peroxide, which really should be called hydrogen dioxide, since it is just a water molecue with an extra oxygen added on. Hydrogen peroxide is H2O2, water is of course H2O. By adding another chemical called a catalyst to the peroxide, you create a chemical reaction that releases the extra oxygen attached to the water molecule. If you mix in a little detergent you can capture that released oxygen in the form of bubbles.

Here’s what you need

  • an empty 16 oz. plastic soda or water bottle
  • 1/2 cup 6% hydrogen peroxide
  • Dish detergent
  • Food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon (or half a packet) of yeast dissolved in warm water

Fill your soda bottle with the 1/2 cup of peroxide and then add a squirt or two of dish detergent. If you want, you can also add a squirt of food coloring to make things a bit festive. Now you need to prepare your yeast. Actually you have a couple of options, you could just pour the dry yeast into the bottle. This will create a surge of foam from the bottle with large bubbles. The yeast acting as a catalyst to release oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide. However, if you want a rich creamy foam of tiny bubbles, you should really add your teaspoon of yeast to a few tablespoons of warm water, then add the liquid to your bottle.

If you have ever made bread from scratch, you know that adding yeast to warm water allows the yeast to multiply into a somewhat smelly and foamy froth of more yeast cells. When you add this liquid to the peroxide you will get quite a surge of tiny soapy bubbles. The bubbly mixture is simply detergent, water, and oxygen filled bubbles and quite safe to touch. In fact you might observe that the foam is warm because this reaction is exothermic, meaning giving off heat.

Play around with the amount of peroxide, detergent, yeast and bottles to create the best guyser of foam!