Feb 3, 2015

WonderWorks: Air Movers (Technology) and the Bernoulli Principle (Science)

Let's explore a variety of tools (technology!) that help us to move air or at least focus the stream of air more effectively.

Today's Topic: Air Movers (and the Bernoulli Principle!)
plastic drinking straws
hair dryers (make sure they have a cool setting or at least a "cool shot" button that can be taped down)
round, lightweight balls (ping-pong, styrofoam, even plastic eggs work in a pinch)
a variety of things that can (and can't) be pushed around by air blown through a straw (we used pom-poms, rubberbands, toy cars, drink bottle caps, shapes cut out of foam sheets, bouncy balls, feathers, wooden blocks, buttons, packing peanuts)
buckets (optional, but as you'll see later, they can be lots of fun!)

 cover art One winter's day / Butler, M. Christina

 What I thought they might do (or where I found inspiration):
 Can the wind move it?
Discover the Bernoulli Principle with hair dryers

What kids actually did:
blow through the straw to see what items can be moved with air.

 Try stacking multiple things to see if they can be moved.
This young scientist quickly realized that just pushing things with the end of the straw was a MUCH more effective way to ensure that the item in question actually moved.
These experimenters had fun balancing the balls in the bottle caps... and then seeing if they could blow them across the table.

 Oh. My. Goodness. A bucket full of feathers MIGHT be the most fun thing to blow air into. Try it for yourself.  I think you'll agree.
 Then there were the hair dryers...

 Styrofoam balls worked better than the eggs, but this explorer also tried out a bouncy ball (didn't work as well).
 And these explorers figured out that if you blow air at a ball inside a bucket, it will spin round and round and round the edges!
 This action was just too fun to limit to a still shot, so here's a short video:
This young scientist wanted to combine the two stations and try blowing on her styrofoam ball.
 And THIS young scientist combined her knowledge from our Straw Flyers class two weeks ago and made a different kind of straw flyer.  Love it!
 I also introduced them to my favorite new app, Inventioneers, because it actually includes a hair dryer! (click the link to read my review of the app.)

Adult Challenge of the week:  Don't tell your child their ideas are wrong.  Allow them to try out their ideas and find out for themselves if the results are what they were expecting.... or not!

Hindsight Tips:
--I used styrofoam balls because it was what I had on hand, but there ended up being a lot of styrofoam shredding action and at least one ball that got stepped on and smashed into an interesting shape. Neither are big deals to me, but if you're trying to decide between purchasing styrofoam balls or ping-pong, I'd probably choose the latter.
--If you don't own multiple hair dryers, you can either ask parents to bring in a hair dryer from home or do like I did and pick up a few at your local thrift shop. Later, you can use them for making melted crayon art!
--Straws collect, um.... condensation when you blow through them long enough.  I'll leave it at that.

 Variations to try: 
The kids had some great ideas for variations.  Try holding a handful of feathers over the hairdryer, then letting go. Even a single feather is fun and can float almost all the way to the ceiling! The packing peanuts were lots of fun with the hair dryer too (they don't balance like the balls, but they do pop up really fast and high!).

Try making a maze with masking tape and asking the kids to use the straws or the hairdryers to blow an object through the maze (or down the path).

Try having the kids blow a drop of water on a piece of wax paper (with the straw).  Or wiggle eyes might be fun to blow on too?

Air pressure experiment with sponges

Make a pom-pom air cannon! 

Related Apps: Inventioneers by Filimundus.  Free with a generous preview portion of the game. Buy the full version if you fall in love with it (we did) for only $1.99 (price at time of publication).  Be sure to check out the "create" section!

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