How to make fun, simple science stuff for kids!

A mad scientist at the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering shows a kid how to have some fun with magnets!
A mad scientist at the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering shows a kid how to have some fun with magnets!

Here are 14 different simple science and engineering projects that kids are sure to love! I’ve included lots of instructions and photographs–courtesy of many exhibitors at this year’s San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering Expo, held yesterday at Petco Park. I also blogged about the event last year.

Check out this fun stuff! Feel free to share! First up . . . how to make slime!

HOW TO MAKE SLIME

Who doesn’t love slime? Slime is fun! And making it is easy! These instructions are courtesy of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, who had a fascinating exhibit at the big STEM education event held at Petco Park.

Just click the image with easy directions to enlarge it! You can enlarge the other images on my blog in the same way, if you want a closer look. Feel free to share these useful how-to photos on Pinterest or with your friends, if you’d like!

How to make slime. You need borax powder, water, white glue and food coloring. Click each image to enlarge instructions.
How to make slime. You need borax powder, water, white glue and food coloring. Click each image to enlarge instructions.

HOW TO MAKE A FUN PAPER ROCKET

Follow the diagram to cut and fold a simple paper rocket with paper clip! These instructions are courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park. Kids love the world-class museum. It’s one of the coolest places in San Diego!

How to make a cool paper rocket, using a rectangular piece of paper, scissors and a paper clip.
How to make a cool paper rocket, using a rectangular piece of paper, scissors and a paper clip.

HOW TO FOLD AN ORIGAMI BOAT

Look at these instructions on how to fold your very own origami boat! My friends at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park provided this information! I even once made one! (And if I can succeed, believe me–anyone can do it!)

How to fold an easy origami boat that really floats!
How to fold an easy origami boat that really floats!

HOW TO MAKE MATCHBOX ROCKETS THAT REALLY WORK!

Here’s how you can make a tiny rocket that actually works in much the same way as a real solid-fuel rocket. Wrap a single matchstick in a small strip of tin foil, then crimp one end. Look at my photos to get an idea of what to do. Be careful! You know what they say about playing with matches! Have an adult help out!

Oh, I forgot to mention. This cool experiment is courtesy of the Magnolia Science Academy!

How to make matchbox rockets and why it works. This is for older, supervised kids. Fire can be dangerous.
How to make matchbox rockets and why they work. This is for older, supervised kids. Fire can be dangerous.
Wrap a match in a small strip of aluminum foil.
Wrap a match in a small strip of aluminum foil.
Crimp the match head end of the tube (the rocket's nose) so exhaust pressure doesn't escape in that direction.
Crimp the match head end of the tube (the rocket’s nose) so exhaust pressure doesn’t escape in that direction.
Prepare for lift-off from a clever, fireproof launching platform! Safely apply flame and let fly!
Prepare for lift-off from a clever, fireproof launching platform! Safely apply flame and let fly!

HOW TO MAKE AN “AIRZOOKA” THAT SHOOTS CO2 RINGS!

Here’s another cool project I discovered at the Magnolia Science Academy booth. A student had created a simple “Airzooka” that shoots perfect white cloudy rings of carbon dioxide!

The trashcan with a hole part looks easy. To create the membrane that launches the CO2 rings, you’ll need to use a somewhat flexible material, like a plastic sheet. Once the can is filled with gas, just slap it with your hand and out comes a “smoke ring”!

How to make an "airzooka" using a plastic trashcan with a hole at one end and a pliable membrane on the other. Fill with carbon dioxide and shoot rings by hitting the membrane!
How to make an “airzooka” using a plastic trashcan with a hole at one end and a pliable membrane on the other. Fill with carbon dioxide gas and shoot white rings by hitting the membrane!
The "airzooka" is loaded with carbon dioxide gas, using either dry ice (be careful) or a fog machine.
The “airzooka” is loaded with carbon dioxide gas, using either dry ice (be extremely careful) or a fog machine.

HOW TO CRAFT A FUN PAPER BAG HAT

What can you do with a paper grocery bag? Crumple it up a bit and form a Mad Hatter hat! Use your imagination and maybe a bit of glue!

This crafty idea is provided by the San Diego County Fair. This summer’s fair will have an Alice in Wonderland theme! I can’t wait!

How to make a Mad Hatter hat with crumpled paper bags and lots of fun stuff tied and glued on!
How to make a Mad Hatter hat with crumpled paper bags and lots of fun stuff tied and glued on!
You can apply ribbons, glitter, feathers, playing cards, whatever you like to fashion your crazy Mad Hatter hat! Okay, I don't suppose this really is science, but who cares!
You can apply ribbons, glitter, feathers, playing cards, whatever you like to fashion your crazy Mad Hatter hat! Okay, I don’t suppose this really is science, but who cares!

HOW TO MAKE A TINY PARACHUTE

I remember creating one of these when I was a kid. I made my parachute for a toy action figure! Just look at the picture and go to work! Pretty simple!

This parachute was put together by to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. The Fleet, located in Balboa Park, is a super cool place with loads and loads of fun hands-on science exhibits for kids, plus an awesome IMAX theater and planetarium!

How to make a simple small parachute with a Dixie cup or object providing weight, string (or similar material) and coffee filter.
How to make a simple small parachute with a Dixie cup or object providing weight, string (or similar material) and coffee filter.

HOW TO MAKE A SUPER COOL STAR WARS COSTUME!

Okay. No instructions here. Just imagination. That cool costume is actually made of all sorts of Star Wars toys! Incredible. I’m guessing that wicked-looking dude is on the Dark Side.

I believe this guy was part of the STAR WARS Steampunk Recycled Fashion and Engineering Challenge.

Yeah, making a cool costume out of Star Wars toys might take a bit of glue. But all you really need is determination and imagination! (And maybe a credit card.)
Yeah, making a cool costume out of Star Wars toys might take a bit of glue. But all you really need is determination and imagination! (And maybe a credit card.)

HOW TO USE YOUR IMAGINATION TO BUILD ANYTHING!

What are we building here? Absolutely anything! It just takes some imagination!

Just look at some of the common household items one can use to invent cool things. I’ll bet you have some of this stuff in your own home.

I took this pic at a fun table display in the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab tent.

What can a person make with this stuff? Anything!
What can a person make with this stuff? Anything!
Objects you can use creatively include popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, straws, tubes, tape and buttons.
Objects you can use creatively include popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, straws, tubes, tape and buttons.

HOW TO MIX UP SOME SNAIL GOOP

Slime…snail goop…boogers…it’s all the same good stuff. At least it’s the same mixture of borax powder, water and white glue. A truly yucky and wonderful substance. Science rocks!

Thanks (maybe) to the Steam Maker Workshop for this gloppy sight.

Okay, snail goop is pretty much the same stuff as slime. But I like the name!
Okay, snail goop is pretty much the same stuff as slime. But I like the name!
If a snail made that much goop, it would be a monster. Fortunately, that monstrous snail would be slow.
If a snail made that much goop, it would be a monster. Fortunately, that monstrous snail would be slow.
Kids and curious adults were learning all sorts of cool concepts at the 2016 San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering at Petco Park.
Kids and curious adults were learning all sorts of cool concepts at the 2016 San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering at Petco Park.

HOW TO CREATE A 3-D OPTICAL ILLUSION WITH STRING

Here’s a cool experiment that demonstrates concepts in math and spatial geometry. Perhaps imagine that the string is a ray of light. From the “tower”, stretch the string so that it touches each of the four top corners of your cube, and plot where the string finally reaches your piece of paper. Connect those points with lines the way my photographs show, then look at the image from the end of the string! It looks like some sort of weird optical illusion, but you’ll see the result actually makes sense!

This exhibit was provided by San Diego State University’s InforMath Collaborative.

By using a string attached to this tower, you can plot the projected corners of a cube or other three dimensional object onto a flat two dimensional surface.
By using a string attached to this tower, you can plot the projected corners of a cube or other three dimensional object onto a flat two dimensional surface.
After drawing the cube's base and drawing lines to connect the square with the projected corners, I ended up with this cool figure.
After drawing the cube’s base and drawing lines to connect the square with the projected corners, I ended up with this cool figure.
When I peered at the image through a hole near the end of the string, I saw a perfect cube! Cool!
When I peered at the image through a hole near the end of the string, I saw a perfect cube! Cool!

HOW TO ASSEMBLE A COOL TENSEGRITY CONSTRUCT

Oh, man! I think you could construct most of this cool stuff with Tinkertoys. Look at the diagrams and go wild! You’ll need lots of rubber bands!

Tensegrity is another science concept that was being demonstrated at the STEM education event. A friendly gentleman explained that the sticks are like bones and the rubber bands are like muscles. So human beings and other critters are examples of tensegrity!

Oops. I apologize for not knowing who put on this exhibit.

What the heck is tensegrity? A funny word created by Buckminster Fuller. You can use rubber bands to add tension to popsicle sticks and create cool stuff.
What the heck is tensegrity? A funny word created by Buckminster Fuller. You can use rubber bands to add tension to popsicle sticks and create cool stuff.
Check it out! Tensegrity is also sometimes called tensional integrity or floating compression.
Check it out! Tensegrity is also sometimes called tensional integrity or floating compression.
These guys formed a huge tensegrity thingamajig using pipes and big rubber bands. I suppose one could use bungee cords, too.
These guys formed a huge tensegrity thingamajig using pipes and big rubber bands. I suppose one could use bungee cords, too.
Look at all the tensegrity objects you can make!
Look at all the tensegrity objects you can make!

HOW TO MAKE A VORTEX CANNON

Here’s a pic that has exact instructions on how to build a vortex air cannon. Looks really easy! (As usual, click the image to enlarge it.)

Uh, oh. I don’t know who created this exhibit, either. I forgot to take a picture with their name. My research got a bit sloppy. Sorry about that. Whoever had this table–very cool!

The vortex cannon shoots air in--you guessed it--a vortex.
The vortex cannon shoots air in–you guessed it–a vortex.
To make a vortex cannon, insert a cut water bottle into a plastic Solo cup.
To make a vortex cannon, insert a cut narrow water bottle into a larger plastic Solo cup, just like the photo.
Then cut off the nozzle of a balloon, and stretch the balloon over the open end of the cup.
Then cut off the nozzle of a balloon, and stretch the balloon over the open end of the cup.

HOW TO STIR UP LAVA IN A CUP

Finally, I’ve heard of java in a cup. But lava in a cup? Why not?

Adding salt to the floating oil makes the blob sink. It has become more dense than water. When the salt dissolves, the oil rises again!

Those instructions look super simple!

To make "lava in a cup", use food coloring, vegetable oil and salt! It's easy!
To make “lava in a cup”, use food coloring, vegetable oil and salt! It’s easy!
You can then use that colorful lava in the cup to make some colorful art! Awesome!
You can then use that colorful lava in the cup to make some colorful art! Awesome!

That’s it! You now have a whole bunch of cool and creative science projects to try out! Have a blast!

Hey! Are you a kid? (Or even a boring old adult?) Try starting a blog like Cool San Diego Sights! You can blog about anything in the whole wide world. It’s free and fun! And it’s pretty easy, too!

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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