Tag Archives: science fair experiment

Science Fair 911 – Demonstrations vs. Experiments

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

When I was growing up, my school did not do a science fair. I had never been to a science fair until my oldest was in kindergarten. All I knew was it had something to do with baking soda volcanoes.

Fast forward several years, and I now organize the science fair and encourage kids to get involved. Through Steve Spangler Science, I also help parents, teachers and students with their projects. Science fair and volcanoes may go hand in hand, but the ever popular demonstration is not actually a science fair project.

A science fair project asks a “what if” question, which leads to a variable and eventually finding an answer or at the very least, a big discovery. A science demonstration, like our volcano, is used to illustrate a science concept.

Another extremely popular demonstration is quickly taking over the volcano as a classic science fair project – dropping Mentos into Diet Coke. This is also a demonstration.

But can you take a demonstration and turn it into a science fair project? Absolutely. All you need to do is C3 it. The three C’s stand for Change, Create and Compare. Find an idea or an experiment that you are interested in, change something, create a new experiment and then compare your results. If your project contains the three C’s, it is a science fair project.

Let’s take the three C’s and apply them to the Mentos and Diet Coke demonstration. We know Diet Coke works well with Mentos to produce a soda geyser, but what about other sodas? Do you get the same reaction with root beer? Or what about regular Coke? In this project, we are going to ask the question, “What if I change the type of soda?”

We now have our first C – Change. The type of soda will change. That will be our variable. The variable is something that changes in the experiment.

Now, we can move on to our second C – Create. Our experiment will test different types of soda with Mentos. Let’s pick root beer, Sprite and regular Coke. We will also have a bottle of Diet Coke as our control. A control is where the variable does not change. We know Diet Coke works and we are testing the other sodas against it. Nothing else in the experiment will change. We will use the same size of soda, same number of Mentos, same temperature, etc.

The last C – Compare. As you run your experiment and test the different sodas, note the dependent variable – how high each soda shoots in the air. Which one went the highest? The lowest? How do they each compare to the control’s height?

Dropping the Mentos into the Diet Coke and shooting soda all over the science fair is not a project. Applying the three C’s to the demonstration to make a discovery IS a science fair project.

You can apply the three C’s to any demonstration to turn it into a project, including the volcanoes. Start with finding one variable to change and you are on your way.

For more science fair project ideas, choosing a topic, tips and more please visit our Science Fair section on SteveSpanglerScience.com.


Young Rocket Scientists Inspired by Homer Hickam

picture-11.pngOnly a very cool teacher gives this kind of homework to her students… “Using only construction paper and tape, I want you to design a rocket.” Lisa Heaton, the Gifted and Talented teacher showed her students a specially designed rocket launcher made out of PVC plumbing parts from the local hardware store. The idea for the PVC rocket launcher comes from U.S. Space Camp for Educators curriculum. I had the privilege of assisting Mrs. Heaton with the launch of the paper rockets. As the students will share in the comments below, the first launch revealed their design strengths and flaws. The five students with the best launch served as mentors for the rest of the students as they returned to the classroom to repair and redesign their paper rockets. The second launch proved to be the real learning experience – be sure to read comments from the young rocketeers below.

picture-12.png“This rocket launch activity coincides with the students reading Rocket Boys (also known as October Sky) by Homer Hickam. I want these kids to experience first hand the feeling of failure and success through the trial and error process of building their own rockets… and this air-powered rocket launcher does the trick,” says Lisa Heaton as she turns to help a 5th grader repair a rocket that didn’t fair well during the first launch.

These 5th graders are also using this hands-on science experience to learn about the science of blogging (pun intended). Student bloggers from Mrs. Heaton’s class in past years posted blog comments about their rocket experience that were even read by Homer Hickam (the author of October Sky) himself. Be sure to read the student comments below.

First Geyser Tube Now Available – Powered by Mentos

We’re excited about the official launch of our new Spangler Geyser Tube. Think of it as the perfect Mentos loading device to trigger a 30 foot geyser of soda. Just load the Mentos candies into the tube, lock the nozzle in place and pull the pin. Okay, it’s bes


t to pull the pin and then run away. The Mentos drop into the bottle triggering the reaction and the powerful soda geyser comes shooting out the top with enough pressure to reach an incredible height of 30 feet. Onlookers scream, “Do it again!”… and you do.

The Geyser Tube retails for $4.95 and is currently only available at www.SteveSpanglerScience.com However, as a result of our licensing agreement with the maker of Mentos (Perfetti Van Melle), the Spangler Geyser Tube will be released into mass market distribution (all of the major toy stores, print catalogs and online stores) in June 2007.

Grant Smith Wins 1st Place in Science Fair

ivorysoap6.jpgIt’s great to get emails with this subject line… My science fair project placed 1st from an idea from your website! Grant Smith is a 4th grader at S&S Elementary in Sherman, Texas. The “S&S” two small towns, Southmayd and Sadler, are approximately one hour north of Dallas. Grant used our website as a resource to expand on the idea of the Growing Ivory Soap experiment. Here’s Grant’s email about his award…

Mr. Steve Spangler,
My 4th Grade Teacher has taught us many cool Science experiments from your website. I got on your website to give me an idea for my Science Fair ivorysoap4.jpgProject. I proved that Ivory Soap has air inside of it by showing it floats and expanding it in the microwave. Last week I placed 1st in the 4th Grade that earned me the “Chief Scientist” Certificate. I am very proud of it. I wanted to tell you thank you for your cool website. My teacher loves going to your workshops and showing us your videos too. We learn a whole lot from your website, kits, and books. Thank you very much! Oh! I was also so excited when I ordered a Sonic WackyPack Meal and got your Science Book!!! I did all of the experiments in class for my teacher and classmates. I am so glad that I can purchase some of your science kit items at Hobby Lobby too. I love buying them and showing my friends! Thanks for all you do for kids and teachers. My teacher told me that I should tell you about winning the Science Fair Project with your idea on Ivory Soap. She said that you would be proud of me. I copied your Steve Spangler website logo and displayed it on my Science Fair Project Board to show where I got my information.

Great job Grant! We share these pictures with permission from Grant and his parents.