Science Projects for a 6th Grader

The Mad Scientist

Your son comes home excited from school. His teacher has assigned a 6th grade science project that is titled “bang – boom – splat”. As he reads the directions to you, he smirks as he gets to the section that highlights you must create a science demonstration for your class emphasizing one of these words. He tips his head to the ceiling, clenches his fist, throws his hand up and yanks it down to his side yelping the familiar sound of a cash register, “cha-ching!”. A moment of wonder (and horror) floats into your mind as you ask to read the assignment.

And, so, the evening begins with you starting to cook dinner and listening to him feverishly clicking on the computer keyboard while searching the internet for ideas. Several ideas he yells out loud receive a prompt “I don’t think so” from Dad and a couple ideas might result in detention, if not a visit from the police. He finally settles on two ideas that meet the required sound effects and are certain to create a response by his audience.

The first option he selects is the tried and true Diet Coke and Mentos combination. He finds directions for a variety of crowd entertaining schemes. One design creates a system that shoots syrup downward to make a plastic bottle spin. Another system creates a controlled fountain with a cluster of bottles draining soda like a Fiji lava flow. Finally, he arrives at directions for an uncontrolled eruption with a plastic bottle exploding in a multi-chain reaction. He thinks the best choice would be a simple chain reaction geyser with Diet Coke erupting to the ceiling and the students in the front row covered in brown syrup. This brings an enthusiastic “This is it!” from him during our conversation, but once again concerns of the clean-up process prompts Dad to quell the idea. Busted!

The second option he researches is the egg drop project. He finds directions on how to drop an egg without breaking it, how to create a parachute, how to wrap an egg in two layers of balloons, and also how to drop the egg without a parachute. He likes the idea of not using a parachute as that seems too obvious and likely to avoid the “splat” sound. He finds the balloon idea would be good, as long as, he can tape some thumb tacks to the side of the egg facing outward so when the egg lands, the balloons pop and create a loud “boom” noise to wake the audience. His Dad joins his online search and finds directions for the egg drop project where the required “boom” is heard, there is no parachute, can be dropped from up to 100 feet, and the egg won’t break in the process. This adds an element of suspense to the experiment and an element of surprise when the egg is left untouched. This is the approach chosen and the construction begins.

Arriving at class the next morning, he carries in his box containing the egg and discusses what he is about to do (rather avoid doing – breaking the egg). When he announces he will drop the box from the 3rd floor window to the ground and the egg inside won’t break, most of his classmates chuckled and said “like there’s really an egg inside that box”. Out the window the box went missing the 4th grades in the yard playing dodge ball. The run down the stairs, he opens the box, and (to everyone’s surprise) the egg is whole. He throws the solid egg at the wall in victory and gets detention.

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