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Just in Time for July 4th, Learn How to Blow Stuff Up — Safely and Legally

experiments at home

 

Fireworks are awesome, but since possession and use of fireworks is illegal in most of Nevada, we’ve scoured the web (and crowdsourced our friends) to come up with some fun ways to blow stuff up at home.

 

All in the name of science, of course.

 

We’ve all heard of the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment, but have you ever done it? We have, and we’re here to share some tips with you.

1.    You need to do this one outside, obviously.

2.    The choice of diet soda over regular soda has more to do with ease of clean-up (sugar = sticky) than the size or volume of the explosion you’re creating.

3.    Open your 2-liter bottle (smaller bottles have smaller mouths, making the eruption smaller) and position it on the ground so it won’t fall over.

4.    The more Mentos you drop in the bottle at once, the better the eruption. Consider a paper funnel to enable you to drop in up to seven at once.

5.    Step back and watch the explosion.

6.    Repeat.

Click here to find the science behind it, along with variations you can share with your budding scientists.

 

If you want to blow things up high into the air, pick up some model rocket kits. You’ll have the fun of assembling your rockets (or building them from scratch if you’re into that kind of thing), as well as experimenting with variables like the number of or angle of the fin attachments.

·       Be sure to launch in wide open spaces, for both safety and ease of finding your rocket afterward. Remember that wind can carry these lightweight experiments pretty far.  

·       Use the remote to launch the rocket so you’re at least 15 feet away when it goes off. No sense burning your fingers or, worse, your face.

·       Keep the parts (especially the engines) out of reach of small children or pets.

The science behind model rockets involves Newton’s Third Law, which says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Click here for more details on the science, along with different experiments you can do with your rockets.

 

Looking for something a little quieter? How about blowing up a balloon without using your hands — or even your mouth!

1.    Using a funnel, pour a third of a cup of vinegar into a small soda bottle.

2.    Insert another funnel into the mouth of a balloon (if you’re using the same funnel, be sure to wash and dry it thoroughly first).

3.    Place 2 teaspoons of baking soda into the funnel so it falls into the balloon.

4.    Remove the balloon from the funnel and secure it to the top of the bottle.

5.    While holding the bottle, lift the balloon and allow the baking soda to drop into the vinegar.

6.    Stand back and watch as the vinegar and baking soda merge to create carbon dioxide, a gas that expands in the bottle and then inflates the balloon.

 

While you’ve got the vinegar and baking soda out, here’s another fun experiment best undertaken outside.

·       Put a tablespoon of baking soda inside a square of toilet paper, then twist the paper to make it a packet.

·       Pour ½ cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of warm water into a sandwich bag. Zip the bag closed, but not all the way.

·       Put the baking soda toilet paper packet into the bag and then zip it closed all the way.

·       Give the bag a gentle shake and set it down.

·       The bag will fill with carbon dioxide almost immediately, growing bigger in size until it ultimately pops.  

 

Want to see something implode instead of explode? Adult supervision is a requirement for this one, but here’s how Steve Spangler crushes a can through the use of water and fire.

·       Rinse out a soda can to remove any residue.

·       Fill a bowl with cold water (the colder the better).

·       Add a tablespoon of water to the empty soda can.

·       Time to get the adults involved! Place the can directly on the burner of the stove while it’s in the off position. Turn the burner on to heat the water. You’ll see vapor rising out of the can, then continue to heat for one more minute.

·       Use tongs to take the can off the stove as it will be very hot, turn it upside down and plunge it into the bowl of cold water, mouth first.

·       The can will literally implode.

Click here for the science, then click here to see Spangler demonstrate the experiment on Ellen, with both cans and a giant steel drum. Do not try the steel drum experiment at home!

 

And finally, this doesn’t blow up, but if you want to create your own fireworks safely, we can help. Fill a large, clear jar about 2/3 full of water. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a small bowl, add 8 to 10 drops of red, blue or green food coloring and mix well. Pour the oil mixture into the water. Enjoy the mini fireworks display when the food coloring separates from the oil and diffuses into the water.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed these easy, safe, legal and science-based ideas for a thrilling July 4th! Now feel free to share your favorite experiments with other families on the Nevada STEM Hub Facebook page.

 

Nevada STEM Hub is a project of the Nevada State Office of Science, Innovation and Technology. Its goal is to collect and share STEM information from throughout our state to help students, parents, educators, businesses and community members better understand STEM and the opportunities a STEM education offers.