Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vinegar Baking Soda Rocket

My kids love making things explode or blow up or go flying through the air. It never took long for them to figure out how to make a catapult; all of them mastered the art of launching items through the air before the age of one. And their favorite part of Myth Busters (one of our favorite shows) is when things go "BOOM" (the cement truck was probably the best explosion ever).
We recently decided to make a cork go rocketing through the air using the very reliable baking soda and vinegar trick. If your kids are begging to do the Mentos in a bottle trick, this is a much cleaner (read no sticky soda geyser) way to hopefully appease them. However the water will not go as high as the soda does. However the anticipation of the cork flying is pretty fun.

What you need for this trick are very basic items.

  • A glass bottle (I like the clear bottle because you can see what is going on inside better)
  • A cork that fits in the bottle snugly but not too tight
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of baking soda - I eyeballed it
  • A coffee filter cut into a square about 5 by 5, I guess - Again, I eyeballed it
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • A funnel
  • An open area outside for the demonstration

Make a little packet of baking soda by putting a line of  baking soda down the middle of the coffee filter and rolling the filter like a burrito. You want it to be narrow enough to go down the opening of the bottle you are using.
In a measuring up or other container, mix one part water to two parts vinegar.
With your bottle in place, pour your vinegar/water mixture into the bottle. This is where we used the funnel.

Make sure the kids are not too close (a few feet back) to the bottle or looking directly over it. SAFETY FIRST The cork will fly up and then come back down but you don't really want to be in the line of fire.

With the cork in one hand ready to go, put the baking soda packet in the bottle and quickly put the cork in the top of the bottle.

Within a very short time the carbon dioxide will create a force strong enough to blow the cork off the bottle. Then you will get a small fun little geyser.

We actually did this three times because it was so fun and the cork pops up so fast. Use this experiment to talk about what happens when the pressure builds. This is a great lesson for not just science but our emotions and life stress also.

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