My son, C (or Epic Dude, as he calls himself for this blog’s purposes), is in 5th grade and required to participate in the science fair. This is the second year of mandatory participation, and he was as enthusiastic this year as last, which was not at all. I thought it would be a cool thing to do – think up an experiment and then carry it out.
Fortunately, his teacher has been easing the kids into the project, having different parts of it due over the last month. The kids go back to school this Thursday, and the conclusions for the experiment are due Friday.
He decided to drop different things into 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke to see which item made the cola spray out the highest, a la the Diet Coke + Mentos phenomenon.
Alas, no spectacular fountains. He chose shelled peanuts, dimes, and lava rocks to drop into the sodas. Yeah, it was as exciting as it sounds. We were in the backyard and it was chilly, so I wanted Mr. Wizard to finish his experiment so we could get back inside. The lava rocks gave us a little reaction, but the peanuts and dimes did bupkis. (bupkis? bubkis? What’s the right spelling?) He chose items based on perceived surface area, since it turns out that surface area is part of the reason the Mentos work so well. As the candy coating dissolves, it provides more surface area for the carbon dioxide in the Coke to react with.
To get even more science-y, he picked up a stick and stirred the bottles after the initial fizz (or lack thereof) was over. How is he supposed to document that? “I found a long stick by my foot, picked it up, stuck it in the bottle, and agitated the soda. It fizzed more.” Wow. I’m glad he’s only 10 because the scientific method was more a bunch of suggestions rather than a set of recognized guidelines.
And to top it all off, he didn’t record any of the findings. I didn’t think to have him take paper or anything outside because I was more concerned with getting all of the other stuff out there. Good thing I videoed the whole thing. We get to watch it tomorrow so that he can record number
Overall, I’m completely underwhelmed by this experiment. I’m more excited about the one I’m going to let my daughter do next year for her first science fair. Our front door is brown (ugly), and I want to paint it cream (pretty). The door faces east, and in the summertime, it is hot to the touch on the inside. I want to get one of those temperature guns that house inspectors use to check the temperature of the oven and see how hot the inside of the door is when it’s brown, versus when it’s cream. Two birds, one stone, and I can get one science fair experiment out of the way before school even starts. Of course, I’ve had this plan for the last two summers and nothing has come of it, so we’ll see.