Make Snowman Snowball Launchers
In this fun winter STEM activity, students explore physics and energy while making snowman snowball launchers.
The science: When the balloon is pulled back, potential energy (energy that is saved up) is created and stored in the taut balloon. When the balloon is released and snaps back, this is kinetic energy (energy in motion). The energy moving through the balloon causes the "snowball" to launch through the air.
Do not put anything except a cotton ball or similar in the launcher, and do not aim at anyone’s face. These launchers could be dangerous if used with hard objects.
- sturdy plastic cup - 1 of this item per student
- colorful balloon - 1 of this item per student
- roll of colorful duct tape - 1 of this item per class
- cotton balls, white pompons or similar - 3+ of this item per student
- googly eyes - 2 of this item per student
- foam stickers - a few of this item per student
- set of permanent black markers - 1 per class
TO MAKE THE LAUNCHERS:
If working with younger students, you will likely want to pre-assemble a basic launcher for each student; older students can do this for themselves:
- Tie a knot in the balloon.
- Cut off the top of the balloon near the widest part.
- Cut off just the very bottom of the plastic cup.
- Stretch the open end of the balloon over the cut-out bottom of the cup.
- Cut a piece of duct tape to a length that will wrap around the cup (about 6"), then cut that strip in half horizontally. This allows you to conserve tape by making two usable pieces. Use one piece of duct tape to tightly secure the balloon to the cup. Your launcher is ready to use!
- Invite students to decorate their cup to look like a snowman, iceman, etc. Put out cotton balls or pompons to experiment with.
TO USE THE LAUNCHERS:
- Hold the cup with the balloon end down. Drop a cotton ball inside.
- Holding the cup firmly, pull down on the tied end of the balloon, then release. This may take some practice, but eventually the cotton ball will go soaring. PLEASE BE SURE TO USE ONLY VERY SOFT OBJECTS IN THE LAUNCHER.
- If a fair amount of chaos in your classroom is a concern, you may want to set up targets ahead of time for students to aim at.
- Does the cotton ball go further when you pull harder on the balloon? Why or why not? Do smaller balls fly farther than larger ones? Why or why not?