Friday, June 10, 2016

4-H - Rube Goldberg Machines, Rockets, and Egg Drop Challenge

We've had three 4-H meetings since I last updated here.

Back in April, we attempted Rube Goldberg machines.  After showing some videos of sample machines, discussing simple machines, and a demonstration of my machine, the kids were set lose with a variety of recycled materials to create their own.  To keep it simpler (theoretically) all the machines were to have the same end result - popping a balloon.

Unfortunately, while we had some great possibilities, we ran out of time before any of the machines were successful.  It definitely wasn't as easy as it looks.  Even my sample machine only worked 2 out of 3 times.  :-/

While I really liked the idea of using recycled materials, I think using pre-made tracks and toys might have made it easier for the kids.

After the lack of success with our Rube Goldberg machines, Rockets were a HUGE hit.  We first had a discussion of propulsion and how it relates to Newton's Third Law of Motion - for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  

Since our first rockets were Alka Seltzer rockets, we also discussed the chemical reaction that takes place when Alka Seltzer is dissolved in water.  Some of the sites that demonstrate these rockets, suggest using a piece of tissue to hold the tablet on the lid until you flip it upside down.   When I tried this, the launch was really lame - only about 2 or 3 feet.   It really is easy to do it by plopping the tablet into the water and then putting the lid on.  It takes a good 30-60 seconds for the reaction to hit the point where the lid pops off.   Our best results were with a film canister (I ordered them from Amazon) about 1/2 full of water with one tablet.  Some of the rockets went over 20 feet.

We let the kids decorate their canisters with sharpie markers if they wanted to.

We also shot off this plastic rocket using vinegar and baking soda (donated by one of the moms in our group!).  This flew about 40 feet up in the air but cracked when it came down so we were unable to do it more than once.

We finished up with an ignition model rocket that George set off over the lake.  We lucked out since despite it having been a windy day, the rocket went fairly straight up (probably 75-100 feet) and came straight down.  We were able to retrieve it by having one of the kids wade out into the lake a few feet.

Our most recent meeting, we did an egg drop challenge.  We provided a variety of materials and, after a discussion about airbags, seatbelts, parachutes and protective cages, the kids were challenged with making something to protect their eggs.  We had about a 50% success rate with this activity but the kids all seemed to have fun whether their egg survived or not.

We have one more meeting left this year and then we will be working on projects for Fair in July.   I think our first year with the club has been very successful and I'm already thinking about all the fun things we can do next year.

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