Flying Cup Glider

Create a fantastic flying machine in seconds and marvel at its erratic flight!

Materials

  • Two cups (paper, plastic or foam)
  • Tape
  • Rubber bands

Safety first!

  • Before launching your flying cup glider, make sure you have plenty of space around and in front of you – it’s usually safest to do all your launches outside.
  • Wear safety glasses or other eye protection when launching your glider.

Instructions

  1. Tape the two cups together at the base.

2. Make a chain of rubber bands. Start with two rubber bands overlapping each other, then loop one of them back through itself to join and pull to secure. Repeat until you have a chain long enough to comfortably wrap around the middle of your cup glider (around 15-20cm).

3. Find a safe launching area. Hold the cups in one hand, and use your thumb to hold one end of the rubber band chain against the join in the cups. With your other hand, wind the rubber bands firmly around the cups once, stretching them a little as you go. Hold the other end of the rubber band chain. You’re ready to launch!

4. Hold the cups horizontally in front of you, with the hand holding the rubber band chain slightly forward. Make sure the rubber band chain is coming out from underneath the cups, not over the top. Pull the cups back and angle your other hand up, as though firing a slingshot. Then let go of the cups at the same time as you pull the rubber band chain forwards. The chain should unwind from around the cups, spinning them in the process, which will make your amazing flying machine go!

Further investigation...

  • It might take a few tries to get the hang of launching your glider. Flicking your front hand forwards as you launch can make the cups spin faster and improve your glider’s air time.
  • Try making gliders from different types of cups and see which ones stay in the air the longest. You could also try cutting the cups into different sizes or shapes, or making a paper ‘lid’ for one or both cups to see how these changes affect its flight.
  • Experiment with different lengths of rubber band chain. Does wrapping the band around more times before launching make a difference to how well it flies?

What's happening?

There are four forces acting on any flying or gliding object as it moves through the air:

  • Lift pushes the glider upwards
  • Weight (gravity) pulls the glider towards the ground
  • Thrust pushes the glider forwards
  • Drag (air resistance) is caused by air pushing back on the glider in the opposite direction to thrust.

When you launch a glider, you create thrust as you push the glider forward and release it.

Eventually, weight overcomes lift, and the plane falls to the ground. When drag overcomes thrust, the glider stops moving forwards.

The movement of the air around the glider is also important. Although we can’t feel it, air is always pressing on us from all directions. The amount of force the air exerts on an object is known as air pressure. Air will also tend to move from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure.

A scientist called Daniel Bernoulli discovered that the speed air is moving also affects the pressure – faster-moving air has lower pressure than slower moving air. This is known as Bernoulli’s principle and understanding it is very important in understanding how objects fly.

With our spinning cup glider, the fast moving air around the glider causes a difference in the air pressure above and below the glider. The air below the glider has a higher pressure than the air above it, and because air tends to move from higher to lower pressure, the air below the glider pushes it up, creating lift.

There’s also another phenomenon involved here. A spinning object moving through the air will tend to curve towards the direction it is spinning. You can see this in action in many sports – when a tennis ball is hit or a soccer ball is kicked in a way that makes it spin, it will curve or ‘bend’ in the air. This is called the Magnus effect.

Check your understanding

  1. What are the four forces that affect a flying or gliding object?
  2. Draw a diagram of your glider and use arrows to show the direction of each force.
  3. Where does your glider’s thrust come from?
  4. Why does the glider eventually fall to the ground?
  5. Explain your understanding of the following scientific terms: air pressure, Bernoulli’s principle, Magnus effect

Curriculum Links

Related activities

Temperature Sort

Do you know what’s hot and what’s not? Test your knowledge of temperatures with this challenging activity, sure to spark some heated discussions. Download the printable activity (PDF, 69kb) Download,…
Read More
A colourful family of Mexican jumping beans made from Easter egg wrappers

Mexican Jumping Bean

Put those old Easter egg wrappers to good use in this fun activity. https://youtu.be/EXMokLDDmpQ Materials Easter egg wrappers or aluminium foil Marbles Plastic container with lid Cylindrical object with diameter…
Read More

Coat Hanger Gong

Use an everyday wire coat hanger to make some very strange sounds! Materials Wire coat hanger Two pieces of string about 40-50cm long Instructions Tie the pieces of string to…
Read More

Sherbet

Materials you will need for Sherbet

Whip up this fabulously fizzy sherbet in seconds using pantry ingredients.

Materials

  • Icing sugar
  • Jelly crystals
  • Bicarbonate of soda (bicarb)
  • Citric acid
  • Small bowl or container with lid
  • Measuring spoons (tablespoon and teaspoon)
Materials you will need for Sherbet

Safety first!

  • Always wash your hands before and after preparing food (yes, this is a science experiment, but you do get to eat it too!).
  • If you have any food allergies, intolerances or aversions, make sure to check that all products you use are safe for you to eat.
  • Citric acid and bicarb may cause mild irritation if you get them in your eyes. Take care not to rub your eyes while making your sherbet.

Instructions

    1. Mix together the sherbet ingredients using the following measurements:
      • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
      • 1 teaspoon jelly crystals
      • 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
      • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

    A little bit of sherbet goes a long way, but if you’d like to make a bigger batch, just double the quantities given.

    1. Stir thoroughly, breaking up any clumps. If your container has a tight lid, put it on and shake the container to mix it.
    2. Taste your sherbet and adjust the ingredients to taste. You should only add tiny amounts when adjusting, and mix thoroughly before tasting again.
      • Citric acid is very sour – it’s what gives lemons and other citrus fruits their sour taste. If your sherbet is too sour, add a tiny bit more bicarb.
      • Bicarb on its own tastes soapy and bitter, so if this taste is overpowering, add more citric acid.
      • Icing sugar is just very finely ground sugar. If your sherbet isn’t sweet enough, add a bit more.
      • Jelly crystals are a combination of sugar, gelatine, flavouring, and colouring. Add a bit more to give your sherbet a flavour boost.

What's happening?

Sherbet gets its delightful fizz from the combination of citric acid and bicarbonate of soda, otherwise known as bicarb. Citric acid, as its name suggests, is an acid, while bicarb belongs to another group of chemicals known as bases.

When we mix an acid and a base together, we get a chemical reaction. In a chemical reaction, the molecules of the starting chemicals (known as reactants) break apart and reform into new chemicals (known as products). In this case, the new chemicals formed are water, sodium citrate (a type of salt), and carbon dioxide gas, which escapes as tiny bubbles. We can’t see all this going on, but the bubbles of gas give us a clue that a chemical reaction has taken place.

But our sherbet didn’t fizz as soon as we added the two dry chemicals together. In powder (solid) form, the chemicals can’t mix together as easily as when they are dissolved. When you add water, or put the sherbet in your mouth with your saliva, the citric acid and bicarb molecules can find each other more easily and react.

A chemical that helps a reaction happen, but isn’t itself changed by the reaction, is called a catalyst – in this case, water is a catalyst that helps the reaction between citric acid and bicarb to happen.

The other two ingredients in our sherbet – icing sugar and jelly crystals – are just there to make it taste yummy. They aren’t needed for the chemical reaction, but sherbet made from just citric acid and bicarb wouldn’t taste very nice.

Check your understanding

  1. Which two ingredients in the sherbet are involved in the chemical reaction?
  2. Which ingredients are not involved?
  3. Can you think of any other chemical reactions that might happen in the kitchen?
  4. Measure how many teaspoons of icing sugar it takes to fill up a tablespoon. A teaspoon is 5 millilitres (ml) – how many ml are in a tablespoon?
  5. How many teaspoons of sherbet does this recipe make?
  6. Calculate how much of each ingredient you would need if you used a metric cup (250ml) of icing sugar.
  7. Explain your understanding of the following scientific terms: chemical, chemical reaction, molecule, reactant, product, catalyst.

Curriculum Links

Related activities

Temperature Sort

Do you know what’s hot and what’s not? Test your knowledge of temperatures with this challenging activity, sure to spark some heated discussions. Download the printable activity (PDF, 69kb) Download,…
Read More

Pouncing Pepper

Watch how detergent changes the surface tension of water in this amazing demonstration! Materials White plate Finely ground pepper Detergent or liquid soap Water Cotton tip (or finger) Instructions Pour…
Read More

Skittle Rainbow

This colourful experiment uses Skittles to demonstrate solubility and diffusion.  https://youtu.be/wp5VSJpWJMo Materials A packet of Skittles lollies A flat plate with a rim (white if possible) Tap water in a…
Read More

Popstick Harmonica

Two completed Popstick Harmonicas

Make a fun musical instrument using a few simple materials. 

Materials

  • 2 popsticks (large ones work best)
  • 2 small rubber bands
  • 1 straw
  • 1 wide rubber band
  • Scissors
Materials for making popstick harmonica

Instructions

  1. Cut two pieces of straw about 4cm long each.

2. Stretch the wide rubber band over one of the popsticks.

3. Slip one piece of straw under the rubber band, a few centimetres from one end.

4. Place the other popstick on top and wrap one of the small rubber bands around the end where the straw is. The rubber band must be outside the straw.

5. Place the other piece of straw between the two popsticks a few centimetres from the other end, but this time on top of the wide rubber band. Secure with a small rubber band.

6. To play your harmonica, put the popsticks in your mouth (between the straws) and blow. The large rubber band vibrates between the popsticks to create the sound. (You might need to squeeze the popsticks together a little bit.)

What's happening?

When you blow through the harmonica, the rubber band vibrates and you hear a sound.

When the straws are closer together a smaller length of the rubber band is vibrating. This makes the rubber band vibrate faster, and you hear a higher pitch.

When the straws are further apart, more of the rubber band can vibrate. This slower vibration allows us to hear a lower pitch.

How fast or slow something is vibrating is called the frequency.

Check your understanding

  1. Which part of the harmonica is vibrating to make the sound?
  2. How does moving the straws change the sound of the harmonica? How would you describe the sound?
  3. Explain your understanding of these scientific terms: vibration, pitch, frequency

Curriculum Links

Related activities

Temperature Sort

Do you know what’s hot and what’s not? Test your knowledge of temperatures with this challenging activity, sure to spark some heated discussions. Download the printable activity (PDF, 69kb) Download,…
Read More

Flying Cup Glider

Create a fantastic flying machine in seconds and marvel at its erratic flight! Materials Two cups (paper, plastic or foam) Tape Rubber bands Safety first! Before launching your flying cup…
Read More
A colourful family of Mexican jumping beans made from Easter egg wrappers

Mexican Jumping Bean

Put those old Easter egg wrappers to good use in this fun activity. https://youtu.be/EXMokLDDmpQ Materials Easter egg wrappers or aluminium foil Marbles Plastic container with lid Cylindrical object with diameter…
Read More

Make a Rainbow

A rainbow forms in the fine spray from the hose

A rainbow is often a welcome sight when the sun comes out after a rain storm. Find out how to make your own rainbow when there’s not a cloud in sight!

Materials

  • A sunny day
  • A hose with a mist attachment
  • An open sunny space, such as a back yard

Safety first!

  • Always be sun smart when outside during the day – wear a hat, sunscreen, and clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible. 
  • It’s safest to stay in the shade in the hottest part of the day – fortunately, this experiment works best when done in the morning or afternoon.
  • Be aware that the wet ground might be slippery. Consider doing this experiment on a grassy area or near a garden so the water you use won’t go to waste!

Instructions

  1. Stand in your sunny space with the sun behind you. You should be able to see your shadow in front of you.

2. Turn on your hose. If your hose attachment has a choice of nozzles, choose the one that makes the water drops the smallest – for best results it should be a fine mist.

3. Move the spray around in front of you until you see a rainbow form in the droplets!

A rainbow forms in the fine spray from the hose
Get the angle just right, and you'll see a rainbow form in the fine mist from the hose!

Further investigation

  • While looking at your rainbow, try moving to a different spot in your sunny space. Does the rainbow appear in the same place it did before?
  • If you are doing this experiment with a friend, get them to stand a short distance from you. Can they see your rainbow too? What if they have a turn with the hose and make their own rainbow – can you see it from where you are? 

What's happening?

A rainbow forms when sunlight hits small drops of water in the air. Water is denser than air, so the light slows down and bends (refracts) a tiny amount when it enters the water drop. The light bounces around inside the raindrop, then exits again at a different angle.

White light is actually made up of lots of different colours mixed together, but our eyes see them as six distinct colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Each of the different colours that make up white light bends a slightly different amount inside the water drop. When the light exits the water drop, each of these colours shows up as a distinct band.

The location of the rainbow that you see depends on the angle between your eyes, the sun, and the water drops. When you moved, your eyes (hopefully) moved along with you – and therefore, so did your rainbow. Someone standing in a different spot in your back yard won’t see the rainbow in the same place you do – they might not even see it at all!

When you see a rainbow in the sky, there are usually many more water drops than you can make with your hose, so lots of people can see it at the same time. However, everyone will see it in a slightly different place depending on where they are standing. And unfortunately, this means that it’s impossible to visit the end of a rainbow. (Sorry.)

More on this topic

  • Rainbows are very mathematical – visit this site to learn more about the maths behind how they are formed.
  • You now know that viral images such as this one, claiming to show ‘a rainbow viewed from above’, don’t show anything of the sort! This cool rainbow-coloured phenomenon isn’t necessarily fake though…it could be due to polarisation of the window glass. But that’s another story…

Related activities

Temperature Sort

Do you know what’s hot and what’s not? Test your knowledge of temperatures with this challenging activity, sure to spark some heated discussions. Download the printable activity (PDF, 69kb) Download,…
Read More

Flying Cup Glider

Create a fantastic flying machine in seconds and marvel at its erratic flight! Materials Two cups (paper, plastic or foam) Tape Rubber bands Safety first! Before launching your flying cup…
Read More

Myth-busting Monday: Pouncing Pepper

You might have seen this viral (ahem) video doing the rounds – a preschool teacher is using the ‘pouncing pepper’ demonstration to show her students how soaps keep germs away.…
Read More

Bang! Crash! Smash! Science!

Our Year One workshop focuses on the Australian Curriculum concept that “Light and sound are produced by a range of sources and can be sensed”.

So it’s probably little wonder that this is the noisiest of all our workshops, discovered recently with the help of the Year Ones of St Mark’s Primary School in Inala.

The children enjoyed making as much noise as possible with our great range of instruments and noisy everyday objects.

Children making noise in the name of scienceMore scientific noise-making

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as the noisemakers, the workshop includes experimenting with light, colours and optical illusions. And they all got to try on the latest scientific fashion accessory – rainbow glasses!

Everyone wearing rainbow glasses

(It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the lenses of the glasses split light into rainbows, so everything the wearer looks at is edged with rainbow colours.)

They also had the chance to experience a bug’s-eye view of the world.

Bug's eye view

 

Thanks St Mark’s, we had lots of fun visiting your students!

Our Year One program isn’t the only one that focuses on the Australian Curriculum learning outcomes – in fact, all of our school programs do! Contact us to find out more about bringing a fantastic curriculum-based science lesson to your school.