You can use our tornado tube experiment to introduce students to kinetic energy, potential energy, and weather. This simple plastic tube can help kids discover how air pressure and density work together to create an incredible force of nature. To put it simply, Spangler Science’s tornado tubes are all about the science of vortex energy, the swirling, twisting and spiraling action that can be found everywhere in nature – in the air, in the water, in the sky. . . everywhere!
When you let the water out of the sink or tub, that swirling that you see is vortex energy. What you see in your bathtub is what Dorothy Gale and Toto saw right before they were whisked away to Oz, only theirs was in the air and yours is, well, in the bathtub. Or sink. Kitchen or bathroom – it doesn’t matter. It’s a vortex. Take cover.
I like to do this experiment immediately after doing the Mentos/Diet Coke experiment, because after the Mentos Geyser goes off, you’ve got all those empty two-liter Diet Coke bottles anyway!
So rinse them out, peel off the label, and fill one of the bottles with water. Add a little food coloring to make the vortex show up more clearly.
Screw your tornado tube to the filled bottle. Turn the empty bottle upside down and screw it into the remaining half of the tube. Make sure your seal is good.
Now turn your bottles over so the one filled with water is on top. Watch the water spiral through the tornado tube, creating a whirling vortex that looks exactly like a waterspout. Or, in the air, a tornado. Or, in your bathtub, a swirling tube of water that sometimes goes clockwise, and sometimes goes counterclockwise. Google THAT. Black holes are vortexes, too. Wow.
Steve Spangler’s Tornado Tube is one of the simplest and most interesting science projects; it appeals to every age. Very young children can use it, and so can everybody else! It can introduce a unit on weather, and it can demonstrate quite a few aspects of physics. It’s made of tough plastic, so if a child drops it, it probably won’t break. If you order several, each student can have his/her own color so there won’t be any mix-ups.
And we all know that we all want our own tornado tube in our own color. For our very own. They’re inexpensive enough so that everybody in the group can have one.
Be ready to hear large groups of students muttering “I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.”