DIY Lava Lamp Experiment • Explore Density and Fizzy Reactions

Learn about density with this simple DIY Lava Lamp Experiment!

Density has to do with how much space something takes up in relation to what its mass is. While density can be a tricky concept for younger scientists to understand right away, this DIY lava lamp experiment is a great opportunity to observe density in action and make some initial observations while enjoying some fizzing good fun!

Materials:

  • Canola oil 
  • Measuring cup 
  • Water 
  • Tall, clear container (we used a clean salsa jar) 
  • Alka-Seltzer tablets (or any other effervescent tablets) 
  • Food coloring
    *Warning: Food coloring can stain! Feel free to substitute in washable paint such as liquid watercolor or tempera paint if you’re worried about mess. Either way, mess-friendly play clothes are recommended for this DIY lava lamp experiment!
Collection of experiment materials including a bottle of canola oil, a measuring cup of water, a tall clear container, Alka-Seltzer tablets, and a box of food coloring

Directions:

STEP 1
  • Fill your measuring cup with 1 cup water.
     
STEP 2
  • Add 10-15 drops of food coloring to your water then stir.

    Observe the food coloring drops as they enter the water. What do you notice? Do they float? Do they sink? Does the food coloring mix well into the water? What do you see?
Add drops of food coloring to cup of water
STEP 3
  • Fill a clear container ¾ of the way with canola oil.

STEP 4
  • Pour the dyed water into your clear container, along with your canola oil.

     
    What do you notice about the water and the canola oil?  Do they mix together?
    Which one sinks to the bottom? Is this the same as what you observed with the food coloring and water?

Mix dyed water with canola oil
STEP 6
  • Break up your effervescent tablets into several small pieces, drop them into your clear container one at a time, and enjoy the show!

     

    What happens when you add the effervescent tablets? Practice your observation skills and describe what you notice!

 

STEP 7
  • You can continue adding effervescent tablets as the bubbles slow.

     

Bubbles rise and fall in DIY lava lamp density experiment

Expand on the Activity:

  • Experiment with your effervescent tablets! What happens when you drop a full tablet in your lava lamp? What happens when you drop in several pieces at once? What happens if you crush your tablet into dust and then add it to your lamp?
  • Make something to remember your experiment! Drop several pieces of effervescent tablet into your lava lamp and cover the top with a piece of paper. As the bubbles pop, the food coloring will leave a surprise behind on the paper for you.
  • Looking for more fun with a fizz? Check out our Ice Chalk DIY Recipe!

 

If you had fun learning about fizz and snapped some photos, be sure to  submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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Demonstrate Laminar Flow at Home with this Water Optical Illusion

What if we told you that you could freeze time with just a balloon, tape, and some water? Now what if we showed you how to demonstrate laminar flow at home?

We promise this isn’t CGI magic or a trick of the camera. What you are seeing is a particularly interesting fluid dynamic, which is a scientific way of saying the flow of a fluid (which is any liquid or gas), called laminar flow. 

 

Below we are going to explore the following questions: What is laminar flow? What is laminar flow used for in everyday life? And most importantly, how can you demonstrate laminar flow at home? 

Laminar flow demonstration GIF

What is Laminar Flow? 

Laminar flow is a type of flow pattern of a fluid in which all the particles are flowing in parallel linesopposed to turbulent flow, where the particles flow in random and chaotic directions. A flow is either turbulent, laminar, or somewhere in between. This is measured by the Reynolds number which is a ratio between velocity (the speed of the flowand viscosity (how thick or thin the fluid is). The more viscous, or thick, the fluid is the faster it can flow without going turbulent 

 

What is Laminar Flow Used For?

 

Laminar flow has a wide range of real-life applications. A type of laminar flow is achieved everyday by pilots. A smooth flight occurs when the flow of the air over an aircraft’s wings is laminar. If the pilot runs into a very turbulent patch of air the wing cannot correct the air to make it laminar, causing turbulence.

 

A different example of laminar flow occurs everyday inside of you. Blood flowing throughout your body is flowing laminarly. 

 

One last example of laminar flow is syrup, or honey, flowing out the nozzle. Because the liquid is so thick, or viscous, the Reynolds number indicates that the flow is very laminar.  

How Can I Demonstrate Laminar Flow at Home?

The following video and steps below it are detailed for you to try and recreate laminar flow at home. 

 

Adult supervision is required as this experiment involves the usage of sharp and potentially dangerous objects.

  • Step One: Gather the following materials: 
    • One balloon 
    • Duct Tape or electrical tape 
    • Water 
    • A sharp object (to pierce the balloon)

  • Step Two: Fill the balloon with water and tie it off.


  • Step Three: Make a square on your balloon out of tape.
    Make sure you pat down the 
    tape, so its smoothly secured. Different sized squares result in different sized flows.
  • Step Four: With adult assistance pierce the balloon inside the square with your sharp object and watch as the water flows out laminarly 

 

How did it go? Try taking your own spin on the experiment, does the amount of water change the results? How about where you place the square? Do you think you can get multiple flows to happen on the same balloon?  

 

If you tried to demonstrate laminar flow at home, be sure you submit you photos and videos of your experiments to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center on social media and use hashtag #OSCatHome for a chance to be featured on our channels!  

 

Until next time, STAY CURIOUS! 

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STEM Slime Activity: Explore Physics with This Oobleck Recipe

If they have fun while they're doing it, does it even count? Make a hypothesis and test it with this STEM slime activity. 

Enjoy messy science with one our favorite activities at the Orlando Science Center! Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it can act like a solid or a liquid depending on what you do to it. With this STEM slime activity, you can learn about the states of matter and viscosity, practice lab skills like measuring and mixing, and have some ooey-gooey fun!

 

Be sure to explore the science behind oobleck toward the bottom of this page and try our other slime recipe so you can compare it to your oobleck! 

 

Recommended age range: Any age; younger scientists may need help measuring but will have fun mixing and playing. Older scientists can explore oobleck’s properties and the topics of polymers and viscosity.

 

Warning: This activity is messy! Mess-friendly play clothes are recommended for this activity! You may also want to set out newspaper or other materials to protect your surfaces, or work in an area you don’t mind getting messy. However, once oobleck dries, it can easily be cleaned up!

Materials:

  • ½ cup cornstarch

  • ¼ cup water

  • Optional: Washable paint or food coloring 

  • Optional: Scent (for example, orange scented oil or peppermint extract)

  • Mixing bowl

  • Craft stick or other stirring utensil

Photo of materials for STEM slime activity

Directions:

Step 1

Measure ½ cup cornstarch and add it to your mixing bowl.

Add cornstarch to mixing bowl

Step 2

Next, measure ¼ cup water and add it to your mixing bowl.

Add water to mixing bowl

Step 3 (optional)

Add a few drops of color or scent to your mixture.

Add coloring or scent to mixing bowl

Step 4

Stir until your mixture looks like glue... That’s it! You’ve made oobleck!

Stir STEM slime activity ingredients together

Step 5

Try some of the ideas below to expand on this activity and learn about oobleck's properties.

Experiment with oobleck STEM slime activity

Step 6

Throw your oobleck in the trash when you are finished. It will mold overnight and clogs drains!

Always dispose of oobleck in the trash can

Experiments:

Once you’ve made your oobleck, it’s time to do some experiments! Before you perform you start this STEM slime activity, make some predictions. Is the oobleck a solid, a liquid, or a gas? What will happen if you poke it? What will happen if you let it sit in your hand?

 

TRY:
  • Poking the oobleck with your craft stick. How does it feel?
  • Gently stepping your craft stick on top of the oobleck. What happens?
  • Holding the oobleck in your hand. What happens when you squeeze it? What happens when you let go?

Expand on the Activity:

  • What happens if you pour oobleck through a container with holes in it, like a colander or a strainer?

  • What happens if you put plastic or LEGO figures in the oobleck? What stories can you tell? Use your imagination!

  • Use highlighter water to make oobleck that glows under a blacklight!

  • Make more! This recipe gives you a small amount of oobleck, but as long as you add twice as much cornstarch as water, you’ll have oobleck!

The Science Behind this STEM Slime Activity: Why Does Oobleck Act Like This?

  • Oobleck is made up of molecules called polymers, which are arranged in long chains. A great example of a polymer is a rubber band. The molecules can be stretched out or bundled up and stuck together like wet spaghetti.
  • When you put pressure on the oobleck, the molecule chains bundle up and stick together, making the oobleck act like a solid.
  • When there is no force on the oobleck, the polymers stretch out, and the oobleck acts like a liquid.
  • Since oobleck can be a solid or a liquid depending on whether you apply force to it, it is called a non-Newtonian fluid.

Learn More: Physics

  • In a solid, the molecules are tightly packed and vibrate in place. In a liquid, the molecules slip past each other, allowing liquids to flow. But have you ever noticed some liquids flow faster than others? Think about water versus honey. What makes them flow differently?
  • You can find out by rubbing your hands together quickly. What do you feel? That heat is from friction, or force that holds back the movement of a sliding object. As the molecules in a liquid slide past each other, they generate friction, too. The more friction they generate, the slower they move. Why is that? The force of the friction is holding back their movement, effectively slowing them down.
  • The friction between molecules in a liquid is called viscosity. The more viscous a liquid, the more energy it takes for it to flow. High visocity liquids, like honey or corn syrup, also tend to be thicker.
  • So what about oobleck? Oobleck is called a non-Newtonian fluid because it breaks the rules of Newtonian viscosity. On Earth, they’ll always be subject to the laws of gravity and the laws of motion Newton described. But the viscosity of oobleck, or the interactions and friction between the molecules, changes based on force you apply to applied to it.

Did you make your own oobleck and perform any experiments with it? We’d love to see how it turned out! Snap a photo of you making, testing, or playing with your oobleck and submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

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In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!