Outreach

MAKE BAKING SODA VINEGAR POWERED STEAM BOAT


What You’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Plastic bottles
  • Straws
  • Sharpeez (optional) for decorating the boat
  • Hot glue (not pictured)
  • Baby pool or bathtub (not pictured)
     

Step 1: DECORATE YOUR “BOAT”

Take the labels off the plastic bottles and let your kids decorate their “boats” using permanent or (oil-based) paint markers. This is optional, but fun—especially if you’ve got more than one little captain at the helm.

Step 2: DRILL A HOLE IN THE BOTTOM OF THE BOAT – THEN PUT A STRAW IN IT.

Using a drill or soldering tool, make a small hole (the size of a straw circumference) in the bottom edge of your plastic bottle. Caution: Wear safety glasses—and keep small kids at a distance—to make sure bits of plastic don’t fly into your eyes).
Place a three or four-inch straw into the hole so that about an inch of sticks into the bottle and the rest sticks out the back). To secure the straw so that no liquid drips out the sides, apply hot glue around the edges.

Step 3: FILL IT UP & WATCH IT GO!

Turn the bottle sideways and cover the straw end with your fingertip while you pour about 1 cup of vinegar into the bottle. Then, keeping the bottle flat and the straw side up (so nothing spills out), drop a few spoonful’s of baking soda into the bottle. Make sure to keep the baking soda on one end and the vinegar on the other.

Give the bottle one quick shake and place it quickly into your pool or tub. And it’s off!

THE SCIENCE TO IT: WHAT IS HAPPENING?

When vinegar (an acid) meets baking soda (an alkali), they react to form a gas (carbon dioxide). This gas must escape the bottle, so it pushes out through the straw, which in turn powers your boat across the pool. Once all the gas has escaped, your boat slows down.

Step 4: TINKER WITH THE STEPS

Now that you’ve done the experiment once, it’s time to figure out how to get the boats moving as fast as they can. Some things you can explore include:

Does more baking soda change how fast the boat moves?

  • Does more vinegar change anything?  
  • What about how you combine the ingredients? For instance, does a quick shake help thing move? Or a slow fizz?

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