When Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1812, he mentions “the rocket’s red glare,” but what rockets were he talking about? Over 200 years ago, Francis witnessed the British fleet launching rockets over Baltimore Harbor during the battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. When he saw our tattered flag being raised over Fort McHenry after our unlikely win, he was inspired to pen this song that we still sing today! Create your own rockets (without the red glare) with this fun, DIY experiment using antacid tablets! Activity Source
Note for Parents:
This experiment uses a medicine that contains aspirin. Please monitor your child(ren) while using this ingredient and be sure and dispose of any used portion after the experiment to prevent accidental ingestion.
- Mini M&M tubes
- Antacid Tablets
- Recycled Cardboard (cereal or snack box is best)
- Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
- Decorations (optional)
- Ball of Clay or Putty (optional)
- Wooden Board (optional)
Eat all your Mini M&Ms (you know, for science), remove the labels and, with an adult’s help, use the scissors to cut the tab that holds the lid on the container. This makes it easier to load the “rocket.” Then, use your recycled cardboard, scissors and hot glue to create cones to go on top of your rockets. Now that you have your basic rocket shape, it’s time to decorate! Use stickers, glitter, washi tape… whatever you like to make your rocket your own. Then, wrap the cardboard cones in foil (for added protection) and hot glue the cones to the bottom of the container so the opening is still accessible.
Gather your rockets, antacid tablets and a bottle of water and head outside where you can safely perform your experiment. You can set up a “launching pad” on a wooden board in your yard or you can use a patio table or other hard, level surface. Take your ball of clay or putty and stick it to the inside of the container lid. This will hold your antacid tablet in place. Pour about a teaspoon of water into the container. Place the lid snugly on the rocket, flip it right side up and quickly move away from the rocket. Watch as it suddenly launches into the air!
This activity demonstrates Newton’s third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this experiment, the sodium bicarbonate in the antacid tablets combined with the water to create carbon dioxide. This gas creates pressure inside your Mini M&M tube. This pressure pushes against the lid, creating an equal and opposite reaction when the lid pops open and launches the rocket into the air!
- What would happen if the container was larger? Would you need more alka seltzer? More water? Discuss how volume factors into how effective your rocket is.
- What other things contain sodium bicarbonate? What makes this compound so effective in medicine as well as cleaning products? Discuss the chemical makeup of this product and how elements like sodium can be combined with other elements to create amazing products we use every day.
Join us on July 4th for our annual fundraising event, Red, White and BOOM where we’ll explore even MORE patriotic science!