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Ooh-La-Lava Lamp

Oil and water don't mix, but you can use that
to your advantage to create a temporary and easy
homemade "lava lamp."TRY-Lava IMG 0338-cropWeb400pxw


You will need:

  • Cooking oil
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • A tall clear container (a glass or a narrow bottle)

 Fill your container two-thirds full of water (optional: mix in a few drops of food coloring for contrast). Pour enough of the oil to get a half-inch layer on top of the water.

  • What do you notice when you sprinkle varying amounts of salt on top of the oil?
  • What happens if you use sugar instead of salt?
  • Do other liquids work as well?

This lava lamp uses two insoluble liquids that have different densities, with the less dense oil floating on top of the denser water. When salt is sprinkled on the oil, it sinks and drags oil droplets to the bottom. As the salt dissolves in the water, it releases the less dense oil droplets, which float back up. Commercial lava lamps work differently. Heat at the base of the lamp causes the denser liquid at the bottom to warm up and expand, becoming less dense and rising to the surface. As it cools, it becomes denser and returns to the bottom, where heat begins the cycle again.

TRY Lava-glass-close IMG 0362-re-WebThis lava lamp uses two insoluble liquids that have different densities, with the less dense oil floating on top of the denser water. When salt is sprinkled on the oil, it sinks and drags oil droplets to the bottom. As the salt dissolves in the water, it releases the less dense oil droplets, which float back up. Commercial lava lamps work differently. Heat at the base of the lamp causes the denser liquid at the bottom to warm up and expand, becoming less dense and rising to the surface. As it cools, it becomes denser and returns to the bottom, where heat begins the cycle again.

 

 

 

 

Wacky Cups

An Experiment with Vibrations in Action TRY Wacky Cup Vibrations 2007 159-re-crop-webpg


You will need:

  • A plastic or paper cup
  • A small nail or a pair of scissors
  • A paper clip
  • A piece of yarn (about a foot long)
  • Some water

With the nail, carefully make a small hole in the bottom center of the cup. Tie the paper clip to one end of the yarn, and thread the yarn through the small hole, with the clip inside the cup.

  • What sounds do you hear when you wet the yarn with water and slide your fingers down the yarn?
  • Does the type of cup or yarn make a difference in the sound you hear?
  • What happens when you repeat the experiment but add a bit of water inside the cup? 

 TRY-Wacky cup vibrations 2007 2people 177-re-webpg

 

 

Make Circuits and Switches

Experiment with simple circuits and create
your own switches using everyday materials.

TRY Circuits 08-22-10 IMG 3966-re-ac-cropWeb


You will need:

  • A string of mini light bulbs
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Thin cardboard
  • Paperclips
  • Brass fastners
  • Aluminum foil
  • Batteries (AA)

Safety note for parents: Please cut the plug off the string of lights and discard the plug.

To experiment with homemade circuits, first prep some basic components including light bulbs, wires and switches. From the string of lights, cut out individual light bulbs, leaving as much as possible of the plastic coated wires attached to each bulb. Using scissors or a wire stripper, carefully strip about a half inch of the plastic coating off the ends of the coated wires leaving the metal wires exposed at the ends.

To make additional “wires,” simply fold strips of the desired length of aluminum foil into thin lines. Then experiment with circuits using tape (as needed) to attach foil strips to batteries, switches and light bulbs. Remove the batteries when not in use since they can get warm when left on too long.

To add a switch to turn your circuit on and off, experiment with variations that involve moveable parts of metal contacting metal to complete the circuit and act as a switch. Paperclips, brass fasteners and pieces of foil all work well.

  • What types of touch switches can you devise that use your hands or feet?
  • Can you find a way to incorporate a penny or a steel ball into a switch?

Stores like Radio Shack® carry small motors and buzzers or alligator clips and battery holders for additional materials for circuit building.

 TRY cicuit-bulb 08-22-10 IMG 4021-re-ccWeb 

 

Make your own Straw Oboe

A drinking straw can become a wind
instrument with just a couple of snips!

TRY IMG 5991-re cc-web StrawOboes 1

You will need:

  • Scissors
  • Plastic drinking straws
  • Tape

Flatten about 1" of one end of the straw with your teeth or another tool. Then trim the flattened end into a triangular shape. This makes a reed, a strip of material that can vibrate and produce sounds. To play your oboe, put the trimmed end in your mouth, past your lips and teeth so the end can vibrate freely, and blow forcibly.

Note: the two points of the trimmed end should be close together but not touching,
so air can pass through the opening. It won't work if you bite down.

  • What kind of sounds do your get when you blow into the straw?
  • What happens to the pitch if you cut the straw shorter and shorter while blowing continuously?
  • What happens to the pitch if you lengthen your oboe by adding one or more straws on the uncut end, either by taping the ends together or squishing one end into another? 

You can also cut little holes on one side of the straw at regular intervals. This lets you modulate the pitch by controlling how far the air travels before it exits.

 TRY IMG 5961-re ccStrawOboecloseup 

 

An Opposable Thumbs Experiment

How useful are our opposable thumbs? Let's test it out!

TRY IMG 3446-Thumbs

You will need:

  • A partner
  • Tape (masking or clear)
  • Paper, pencil, and paper clips
  • Clothes or shoes with zippers, buttons, laces or other fasteneing devices.
  • A watch or clock with a second hand, stopwatch, or timer app on your phone that can track seconds.

Have your partner tape your thumbs to the sides or palms of your hands so that you cannot use your thumbs at all. Now let’s see how handy you are!

What do you notice when you experiment with trying to:

  • Write your name on paper
  • Fasten papers together with a paper clip
  • Fasten or unfasten clothing or shoes

What is the time difference between accomplishing those tasks with and without your thumbs? Can you adapt and change your technique to improve your outcomes? What other tasks might require your opposable thumbs?

Opposable thumbs, ones that can move around and touch each of the other digits on that hand, have been very useful to humans and to the handful of animal species that also have them, like chimpanzees and gorillas. These more flexible digits have played a key role in human evolution and adaptation, allowing for increased manual dexterity, the development of finer motor skills, and an easier time manipulating tools. Some animal species like opossums even have opposable toes! 

  

 

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