Amazing Soda Can: Twisting Experiment

Summer is the best time for outdoor science experiments.  We always seem to tackle harder science topics in the summer because the days are longer and the minds are sharper from all that extra time spent outside.  Today we are going to share with you Twisting Soda Can experiment.  In this fun activity, we use the force of gravity to twist an empty soda can, call it an Introduction to Physics for Little Kids.  

 

Twisting Soda Can Experiment.   In this fun activity we use the force of gravity to twist an empty soda can.   Perfect for Backyard Summer Science

 

Twisting is one of the most common actions we perform on a daily basis. According to Oxford dictionary, twisting means bending into a specified position, moving in such a way that two parts of a body are facing in opposite directions or causing to rotate.  The subject of this post is the latter part of the definition causing things to rotate or twist 

 

To make it a terrific learning experience start by asking some questions about twisting.  What can you do to twist an empty can of soda without using your hands directly?   Is it possible to twist a can of soda by filling it with water?  Why not?  Would poking holes in a can help it twist?  Does it matter where the holes are?  Their shape?  And direction?     

 

My family doesn’t buy or consume any products that come in cans, so we had quite an adventure looking for cans in recycling bins in back alleys.  What we wouldn’t do for science!   We found that longer cans twist much faster than standard cans, so if you can get hold of a beer can or two that would work even better than a soda can.  

 

Twisting Soda Can experiment Introduction to Physics for little kids

Twisting Soda Can Experiment for Kids

What you need

Empty soda cans (3-4)

Nail for making holes

String

Water

 

Procedure

1.Poke three holes in the bottom of a soda can.  We used a nail and angled it to give water a direction.

 

Twisting Soda Can exeperiment 2

2.  Tie a string or shoe lace to the top of the can and fill it with water by submerging it in a pot of water (or use a garden hose to fill it up).

 

Twisting Soda Can Experiment 3

3. Lift the can in the air by the string and watch it rotate. 

 

Twisting Soda Can Experiment 5

 

If you have observed my kids’ excitement in person, you would have thought they have never seen the water before.  

 

Twisting Soda Can Experiment 6

They wanted to do it again and again and again.  

 

Variations

Now vary the position of holes:  

  • We did three holes along the top of the soda can.  
  • Three holes horizontally, one on top of another, on one side of the soda can.  
  • And a random collection of holes all over. 
None of the new varieties produced a spinning motion, but we had fun trying.  

 

The Science of Twisting

The position of holes and their direction are of the utmost importance.  When we poke holes around the bottom edge of the can, we harness the power of the gravitational pull.  The pressure of the water as it pours out, plus the angle of the holes makes the can spin.  When the holes are positioned along the top edge of the can, the water is not coming out with the force and nothing exciting happens.  

 

Trouble Shooting
  1.  If your can is not twisting, you might want to change a string.  We had to try five different models before we found the best fit. 
  2.  Keeping a can straight helps the rotation, so if your can is leaning glue the top flap (the one you pull up to open the can) to the can.  This way when you hold it by the string, the can will be parallel to the ground. 
  3. We found that larger and longer beer cans rotate much faster and in more impressive fashion than regular 11 oz soda cans.  

 

To better understand the basics of twisting, please, read this post The Physics of Twisting for Kids.  

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4 thoughts on “Amazing Soda Can: Twisting Experiment

  1. Now this is a great experiment and my son who is autistic would LOVE this. He loves anything relating to science and we may try this on the weekend. Thank you.

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  2. I can totally see my cousins having fun with this soda can experiment–it’s always a good eye to keep kids engaged in the summer months when they’re on break from school!

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  3. What a great way to teach science to your littles. I try not to use cans here, too, so I feel you on needing to look for cans for experiments.

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