Our Mad Scientist Mondays included outdoor stomp rockets. They are very easy once you get the launchers made (which we did with teens in a separate program). We used PVC pipe, a piece of wood for stabilizing, rubber tubing, and some PVC brackets. You can also make it entirely out of PVC. Once the launchers are complete, you need 2 liter soda bottles, tape, and paper for rockets to complete the experiment. Discarded magazines and scrap paper come in handy.
The most important thing is to leave out a PVC pipe of the same size so kids can measure the width of the pipe. The rocket needs to loosely fit on the launcher. We used this template and edited it to fit our pipes. It is also imperative that there are no air leaks in the rocket so use lots of tape when assembling. What was interesting to note is that our 99 cent generic soda bottles broke only after a few jumps while Sprite bottles held up for 2 hours of continuous stomping. The plastic of Sprite bottle appeared to be thicker.
A few of the kids decided to build parachutes out of paper. It was a good science lesson about air resistance and gravity because they hindered the rocket's trajectory. They also experimented with the placement of the bottom fins.We found that when fins were curled it helped with distance and direction of rocket thanks to our brilliant teen scientist volunteer.Inside the children's room we made simple catapults out of Popsicle sticks, elastics, and spoons. We decided to use pom poms instead of marshmallows. Marshmallows that get stepped on are tough to get out of our carpets!
A page of examples to build upon the simple catapult like this one were left on the tables to encourage kids to test out different configurations. Without much prompting they began a game using Solo cups to see who could get the pom poms in. We also left out glue for the bottlecap launchers but kids were impatient during the drying so I'd skip that next time we do this.
On Tuesday, we built ETV (Egg Transportation Vehicles) for an egg drop out the 1st and 2nd story window as part of our backyard ballistics program. We made our egg drop open ended by leaving many materials such as duct tape, plastic bags, egg cartons, packing peanuts, straws, pipe cleaners, foam, elastics, yarn, recycled yogurt cups, and lots of cardboard on the table. During my research, I found that most egg drops do not permit parachutes or packing materials of any kind but we wanted to encourage the eggs to stay in one piece since we were dropping them right outside the staff entrance over a tarp. Make sure to put a sign to warn unsuspecting staff. Without any pictures to guide them and a quick explanation about gravity and air resistance we said, "See what you can do." Gr. 3-5 and 6 and up were split up in different rooms so we could see what ideas popped up. We allowed 40 minutes for design and testing before the drop. Hard boiled eggs in ziplock baggies were given out so students could allow room for the proper egg dimensions without incident. No one got an official egg until it was time for us to drop them and the students had to provide directions on a post it note for any special instructions. Librarians were the only one hurling them out the window much to their disappointment. Students were outside under supervision to check their ETV after the drop. They had the best view in my opinion.
The goal was for the ETV to survive the 1st story drop without cracking the egg. If the egg survived, we dropped it from the 2nd story. Most of the eggs miraculously survived both drops. I think the packing foam helped a great deal. It was a great experiment in tinkering as I found myself trying not to give hints along the way.
Overall, it was alot of fun. Next year we are thinking of posing stricter rules like no parachutes with dimension and weight requirements. We would encourage families to work as a team at home and then all we will do is provide the space to drop the ETV.
Check out our video to see all the action.