Submitting Organization: Science Friday Initiative
Grade Levels: 6th Grade – 8th Grade
Subject Area: Science
Standards Alignment: Next Generation Science Standards
MS-PS2-2 – students demonstrate through experimentation how design changes exert force on air more or less efficiently, illustrating that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object (air in this case).
Description of the Activity:
Students build and test vortex cannons out of household materials. Students use an air cannon to demonstrate that air, like all matter, can move in response to force and exert force on other objects. They then design, build, test, and re-design air cannons to maximize the force and distance traveled by the air jets produced.
- What changes can you make to this air cannon design so that it shoots air farther?
- What would make the air molecules in the cannon chamber travel faster?
- Do you think larger cannons will shoot air farther than smaller ones? Why or why not?
- How do you think the shape of the air cannon will affect how far it can shoot air? Why? What shape do you predict will be the most effective at sending air across the room?
- Is a large opening or a small one better for shooting air long distances? How do you think the shape and texture of the edge of the opening affect how far your air cannon can shoot air?
- Are some stretchy materials better at shooting air long distances than others? How could changing the method or material you use for firing your air cannon change how far the air travels? What about how fast it travels?
- Plastic or paper cup
- Large balloon
- Rubber band
- Lightweight objects such as toilet paper, cotton balls, toilet paper rolls, flagging tape
- Measuring tape
Link to further resources: