STEAMING HOME

Three at-home experiences for your budding scientist

As the nights draw in, try these fun, indoor, at-home STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) activities. These three simple experiments encourage curiosity using objects sitting around the house.

FLOATING FIREWORKS

With Guy Fawkes around the corner, you can create your own spectacular display of colour without lighting a single sparkler!

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Clean empty jam jar
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Food colouring

Steaming HomeFill the jar with water. Measure out three to four tablespoons of oil (whatever is handy in the kitchen) into the bowl. Add drops of different food colouring to the oil and mix gently with a fork. Then, carefully pour the oil/food colouring mix into the jar of water. The food colouring slowly sinks out of the oil and dissolves in the water, creating a mini firework visual effect.

HOW IT WORKS The food colouring dissolves in water and not oil. As the oil is less dense than water; it floats to the top; while the droplets of food colouring sink to the bottom; dissolving and dispersing in the water on the way.

TOP TIP Food colouring will mix so don’t over-stir!

GROW THE GUMMY BEAR

Any gummy bears sweets leftover from Halloween? Prepare to make them grow.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Glass or bowl
  • Water
  • Gummy Bear

Steaming HomePlace the gummy bear in a glass or bowl of water. Record what it looks like over time. Leave for four to ten hours. Has your gummy bear grown?

HOW IT WORKS The gummy bear absorbs water, a bit like a sponge, through osmosis. Osmosis is a process by which molecules (in this case water) move from an area of high concentration (the glass/bowl) to an area of low concentration (the gummy bear), causing the bear to swell. If you leave the bear long enough it will completely dissolve.


BUILD A BRIDGE

Building is always fun; try this nifty little engineering project without the risk of stepping on any blocks!

WHAT YOU NEED

  • Three paper cups
  • Paper
  • 12 x 1p coins

Place two cups on a solid surface and set the sheet of paper on top to build a bridge. Place the third cup on the centre of the paper. Does it hold? Add coins one by one to the balanced cup. Count how many are needed until the “bridge” gives way. Now take a second sheet of paper and fold it so it resembles a concertina. Repeat the experiment with this piece of paper. How many coins can be added to the balancing cup until the bridge gives way? This is a fun challenge to do with friends. The concertina “trick” will always win. Check out the difference between many, smaller folds and fewer, larger folds.

HOW IT WORKS Everything exerts a force, including the cup. The cup exerts a downward force on the flat paper; as it gets heavier with coins, the paper gives way. Folding the paper spreads the force across more paper, allowing it to support more weight than a flat piece of paper. Larger, fewer folds work better than many, smaller folds to support the weight of the cup as it is filled with pennies. Try it and see!