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Maker Monday: Film Canister Rockets

These Maker Monday Film Canister Rockets shoot into the sky with a loud, satisfying “pop!” at take off.  It’s a cool STEM activity that can be replicated again and again.

Use a film canister and a little water, plus the secret rocket fuel — Alka-Seltzer or its generic form — which fizzes and bubbles until exploding the lid off the upside-down canister.

This activity is a fine way to illustrate Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When the chemical reaction of the water and tablets produce enough carbon dioxide, its force not only pushes the lid off the canister, the opposite reaction sends the canister flying up 10 to 20 feet in the air. It’s not very different from the science NASA uses to send real rockets into outer space.

Want to see that once more? Just rinse the canister and do it again!

Don’t worry about the mess. A quick hose down of water cleans it up easily.

For added fun, we decorated the canisters before setting off our rockets.

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Film canisters (Find them at craft stores or online.)

Alka-Seltzer or generic effervescent antacid tablets


Optional decorations: Ribbon, stickers, markers, glue gun, etc.

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Decorate the canisters, if you like. Once they fly off, it might be easier to identify and see where the rocket ended up following its flight.

Set the canister on a hard outdoor surface, like a driveway or sidewalk. Fill the canister about one-third with water. Break a tablet for each canister into three or four pieces. Drop the pieces into the water and quickly snap the cap on the canister. Set the canister lid-down and step away.

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You will hear the fizzing followed by a loud pop as the canister opens, blasting off your rocket into the air.

Older kids can add a bit of experimentation to the process and takes notes. Does hot water react differently than cold? Do plain canisters react differently from those with decorations? Does more or less water make a difference in your rocket’s flight? You can probably come up with a number of other factors to compare and learn from.

For more Maker Monday projects and other fun stuff for kids, visit the Kidsburgh Activities page.