Using an April Fool's Prank to Teach the Difference Between Possible and Impossible

This past Monday, we shared our annual April Fools Day science prank video. Many of our customers and fans look forward to our prank each year. This year, we shared step by step instructions on how to build your own lightsaber from the Star Wars movies. The materials list included an empty can, Dilithium Crystal (actually a Ring Pop) and duct tape. We were selling the crystal and an Energy Modulation Circuit (regularly priced $7,597.13 on sale for $11.38).

Here’s the video and instructions. There is also a sneak peek at some genuine Jedi training at the end.

We thought it was pretty obvious that this was a hoax and not really an actual experiment that people would go and try. We should have known better. Here’s an email from a mom that we received this week -

I have a six year old who found your light saber project through our school library.  Of course I wanted to encourage his interest in science so we immediately took the list from your video to the store to buy all of the materials…only to find that the power cell is must be something we have to “special order”.  The fact that you had a fake order form for it on the site only led to the false hope that we could actually buy the darn thing there.

$20 of worthless materials later, my kindergartener is going to be crushed to find out this was all a hoax when I tell him we can’t order the power unit.  I’m not sure what the goal was for this “project”, but I’d say this one certainly didn’t accomplish anything.  We’re very disappointed, and will share that feedback with our elementary school.

We appreciate that this mom took the time to send us this email and explain her frustration. This is not being posted to make fun or poke at her in any way. Most of us have fallen for a practical joke or scam at some point in our lives. We are sharing it as a lesson for all children.

The best part of the experience for all of us at Steve Spangler Science (and probably every teacher in the world) is that this child was naturally inquisitive and excited about science. Many teachers use these prank videos to teach kids to think critically and learn a lesson in probability. Just because something is posted on the internet or shared as an experiment, scientists should not take it as fact. Before performing any experiment, take a step back and look at it.

  • Are the materials easy to acquire?
  • Do they make logical sense in the experiment?
  • Could the video be using trick photography or fancy editing?
  • Is the outcome possible?
The lack of science education and literacy is apparent in our society every day. This mom and her child are just one example. If they had stopped and analyzed the experiment, they would have realized that a lollipop and a soda can had a very probability of becoming an actual lightsaber.

We hope this parent is proud that she has a son who is naturally curious and has a love of science. We hope she isn’t discouraged that she fell for a prank, but instead uses it as a teaching moment for her child as they attempt another experiment.

This is also not the first time we’ve had members of our YouTube audience get frustrated with our April Fools Day pranks. A few years ago, an experiment involving a paper airplane flying between two opposing fans created a stir.

We had so many people who went out and purchased fans and tried and tried to get the experiment to work, that a few days later we posted this reveal video -

Steve Spangler Science isn’t the only one who has taken a hit in the name of science illiteracy. Two Florida DJs were indefinitely suspended this April Fools when they joked that dihydrogen monoxide was in the water supply. If we as a nation were better educated in the sciences, everyone would have immediately known that dihydrogen monoxide is the chemical name for water. The DJs caused a lot of people to panic when they made the announcement that water was in the water.

For a few more fun and harmless science internet hoaxes for April Fools Day, check out The Spangler Effect

Jedi Training – Use the Force & Build Your Own Lightsaber

Have you always wanted to build your own lightsaber and fight the forces of evil? Forget the old Jedi Mind Meld trick. That’s for amateurs (and presidents.) You need what all Wookies, Ewoks, Vulcans and Vogons use to protect themselves across the galaxy.

Our amazing researchers at the Steve Spangler Labs have uncovered the secret to how the lightsaber actually works. It’s only a tad complicated – but don’t worry, any padawan can make their own.

You may need to travel to a galaxy far, far away to retrieve some of the components, but trust us. It’s worth it.

The key to the operation of the homemade lightsaber comes in the two rare components, the Dilithium Crystal and the Energy Modulation Circuit. The Energy Modulation Circuit, when switched on, converts a standard electrical charge into a hybrid form of energy that emits light, heat, and sound.

Once you have your lightsaber up and running, it’s time to practice a little before going out into the final frontier to look for Darth Vader and his BFF Khan Noonien Singh.

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Steve Ignites a Passion for Science at Utah Early Childhood Conference

Recently, Steve Spangler was the keynote speaker at the Utah Association for the Education of Young Children conference in Salt Lake City.

He brought his exciting collection of flaming wallets, Smoke Rings and Wind Bags to an audience of early childhood professionals. Steve shared some of his favorite demos and antidotes along with his message about the state of education today. Money gets thrown where we think education needs to be improved – early education, high school, technology and then the next buzz. We can’t settle on a solution to solve the problems and issues facing education today because we need to realize that human beings are being educated. Educate the whole person while igniting their passions for learning and discovery.

Steve’s keynote grabbed the attention of one teacher blogger…

The first (and favorite) quote I jotted down from Steve came as he was talking about all the efforts made to improve education.  He said we throw money at early ed, then we say -WAIT! No, put it over here!- and we move our attention to high school, but then -WAIT- technology!  It’s technology where we need to focus, then no -WAIT – it’s this, that, no, the other thing.  Then he said, maybe we can’t seem to settle on the solution because we need to realize, “It’s a human being.”

Read Not Just Cute’s entire post about educating the human, not the system.

Spangler Takes His Message from the Classroom to Corporate Audiences

Steve Spangler took his education-focused show to the fifth annual State of DIA at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

George Peck with the Aurora Chamber of Commerce inflates windbags with other business leaders in a State of DIA presentation at the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Tuesday. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Denver International Airport is the world’s 11th busiest airport. The ‘Science of a Successful Airport’ event focused on flights and finances at DIA as well as featured Spangler’s presentation.

The airport is one of Denver’s eight leading industry clusters for employment, economic impact, and future growth opportunities.

Spangler shared a presentation on making unforgettable experiences. His message, usually directed at teachers and other educators, shares ideas and demonstrations to make learning memorable in the classroom. If it makes it to the dinner table that night, Spangler believes that teacher and lesson made a difference.

This message can also translate into business…give your customers, or travelers in DIA’s case, a memorable experience, then they will return.

For more on this event, please read the following articles:

Science Explodes at the Cherry Creek Foundation Luncheon

Steve Spangler, a former teacher and educator for Cherry Creek Schools, brought Bernoulli’s Principle to life for 600 people during the 19th Annual Cherry Creek Schools Foundation Luncheon on March 15.

Courtesy: Cherry Creek Schools

The crowd of business leaders, city government officials, educators and foundation volunteers were on their feet filling plastic tubes with lots of hot air.

Spangler was the keynote speaker for the luncheon, held at the DTC Hyatt Regency. Retiring Superintendent Mary Chelsey was honored along with several educators and volunteers. The luncheon also serves as a fundraiser for the foundation.

“Learning is about engagement,” Spangler said during his presentation. “It’s about creating those ‘I’ll never forget the day’ kind of moments in the classroom.”

Courtesy: Cherry Creek Schools

As 600 Wind Bags danced around the ballroom, Spangler called it a Facebook moment. but the audience called it a memorable learning moment.

Attendees also dodged smoke rings and jumped when Spangler’s wallet ignited in flames.

Spangler was a teacher in the Cherry Creek School District for 12 years before taking his show on the road to educate teachers in how to engage and excite their students about science.

“Make it big, do it right, give it class,” said Spangler of education. “And if it makes it from the classroom to the dinner table, you know you’ve done it right — activities don’t make it to the dinner table. Experiences do.”

For more photos, check out the Foundation Luncheon photo album on the Cherry Creek Schools Facebook page!