Fun With Science Fair Projects

6 Jan

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.


4 Responses to “Fun With Science Fair Projects”

  1. veryVERYbusymom January 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    I’ve never seen this video or heard about the diet Coke / Mentos trick. Sorry, April. I’m not letting my kids read your blog for obvious reasons.

    • That Nolen Chick January 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      Hey, I’m just trying to spread the joy of learning science here. 😉

  2. Reading (and chickens) January 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    My kids LOVE that mentos trick. We may have made a mess of the backyard doing that all summer. Oh, and baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, too.

  3. Shizuko Schmidt February 5, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Everyone has seen the tired old science fair project, such as the volcano or the styrofoam solar system, which have been favorites of many parents for what feels like generations. These projects are relatively simple and easy from the parent’s point of view, but they are incredibly bad choices for the children involved. Why?These are the kind of projects that are so well-known that even the students know what is going to happen. And when that happens, the students are not learning anything, and their performance suffers during the presentation portion of science fairs because of it. Science fair judges have gotten bored with these types of projects, and that’s a big problem for students who endeavor to win prizes in their science fair. In the end, this kind of project is only really good for the parents, and surprisingly, these kinds of projects are not even particularly cheap!`

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