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3... 2... 1... Launch!

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to launch these balloon rockets.
A little air pressure is all it takes.
CAM 061112 17846-re cc-Web-278px

You will need:

  • A balloon (a round or elongated one)
  • String (long enough to span a room)
  • Adhesive tape
  • A drinking straw

Tie one end of the string to the back of a chair (or another sturdy location like a doorknob) on one side of the room. Thread the string through the straw and then tie that end of the string tautly to another chair on the opposite side of the room. Inflate a balloon and pinch the end shut while you tape the balloon to the straw. Don't tie the balloon shut, just pinch it closed while you tape it. You might want a friend to help you. Now, let it go!

  • What do you notice when you release the balloon?
  • Does it matter how you tape the balloon on the straw?
  • Does the type of balloon, string or straw make a difference?
  • What happens if the string is at an incline or attached vertically to the ceiling?

You can also experiment with adding cardboard wings or rudders and see if you can get the balloon rocket to spiral as it moves forward.


Colorful Cabbage

Did you know you can make a pH indicator using red cabbage?
Let's cook up some science!
TRY 2007-08WinterNL IMG 0091-300pw

You will need:

  • A small head of red cabbage
  • A large cooking pot
  • A strainer
  • A variety of liquid acids and bases (vinegar, lemon juice, detergents, clear soft drinks, baking soda diluted in water, window cleaner, etc.)
  • Small cups (paper, plastic or glass)

Cut the red cabbage into small pieces and place them in a big pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the cabbage and boil for twenty minutes, or until the water turns purple or blue. Wait for the liquid to cool, then strain out the cabbage and pour a couple of tablespoons of this liquid, which will be your pH indicator, into a number of small cups. Add a different acidic or basic liquid to each of the cups until the color changes.

  • What color changes do you notice?
  • Do some liquids generate similar color changes?
  • Do you notice anything else happening to these liquids, other than color changes?

What causes the color changes? Pigments called anthocyanins are present in red cabbage. These pigments change color depending on the pH of their environment. In acidic solutions, the pigments turn red/pink, in neutral solutions they stay blue/purple, and in basic solutions they turn yellow/green. You can try to find other pH indicators by testing various pink/purple fruits, fruit juices and flower petals. You can also visit and type in "pH" and "anthocyanins" to find out more.


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?

TRY Lava-glass-close IMG 0362-re-Web

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.




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 


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