Lemon Battery Science Fair Project

Lemon STEM activity

Lemon STEM is such a fun way to explore concepts and this lemon battery science fair project is a winner! By using a lemon and a few other materials, you can discover the chemical process of moving electric current through a lemon to create a lemon battery. This lemon battery is a discovery activity that makes a great science fair project because the experiment is a powerful tool for discussing science and exploration in kids. Plus, this lemon science experiment is easy to do (and clean up)!

Lemon Battery Science Fair Project

One of the best benefits to making this lemon battery science fair project is that it’s an easy way to learn about electrodes, electrons, and the chemical reaction required to fire up a battery. As an occupational therapist and mom, I love the other skill-building opportunities with this project too:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Creativity
  • Engineering and building 
  • Planning, prioritization, task completion and other executive functioning skills
  • Using different materials found around the home (accessibility!)
  • STEM activity

When kids build the lemon battery, they are building so many skills!

Introduce them to creativity through STEM?  Sounds great! Encourage my children to get excited about science and math? YES! Unleash natural potential in my girls by experiencing science projects? I like it.

lemon battery science fair project

And the best for me, was watching my girls do this together.  The baby saw her big sister in safety goggles as she learned about cathodes and electrolytes…and has been wearing the goggles every day since.  Seeing them inspire each other was just awesome.

We were making lemon powered batteries! 

What is a lemon battery?

A lemon battery is a simple science experiment kids can do to explore concepts of conduction and reaction. In the lemon-powered battery experiment, kids can see how electrolytes are conducted through the lemon and wires in order to power a light or clock. 

The experiment is simple set up, easy, and a fun way to explore science!

 You move 

Food Battery Experiment

When I first showed the girls the items and explained what we were doing, they were very excited about lemon electricity! I was surprised to read that only 1 in 1,000 girls pursue STEM careers, especially considering that out us us three sisters, two of us are in the health/science field.  Encouraging my girls to explore interests in science is important to me and I was super pumped to get my girls excited about our science experiment…and the enthusiasm was catchy!

We used a lemon in our fruit battery, but you could use any citrus fruit to make a citrus battery…oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes all work equally well in this kid-made battery experiment. 

Other fruits and vegetables can be used in this experiment too. It might be fun to explore which food is the best conductor for passing electrical energy. Try these fruits and veggies:

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Limes
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Apples
  • Bananas

Which food battery works fastest? Which is the strongest conductor? Which food battery will work the quickest? These are all fun science fair experiments to try!

Lemon Battery Science Experiment

We created the lemon-powered battery, but then used the battery in a STEM activity by adding engineering and math to the mix. 

 To make the lemon battery, you’ll need a few items”

  • LED Bulb or a small clock, light bulb, etc.
  • 4 Lemons 
  • Knife to cut the lemon
  • Alligator Clips on Lead wires
  • Zinc Nails 
  • Copper Wire (or a penny)
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Recording sheet

You can also try different metals instead of the copper penny. Try a galvanized nail, Copper electrodes, Aluminum foil, metal strip, or other types of metal material.

Also note that you should have adult supervision for this activity because cutting the food with a knife can be tricky!

lemon battery science fair project to make a lemon battery

And we got started on our STEM project.  The instructions are easy to follow images below.  

Make a lemon battery for a science fair project

How to make a lemon battery:

  1. Start with a clean surface.
  2. Use the knife to make a small cut in the lemon’s surface. This will be used to push the nail and copper penny into the lemon more easily.
  3. Use an alcohol wipe to clean off the lemon or other food item used for the battery. 
  4. Press the nail and copper item (penny, copper wire, etc.) into the lemon. Make sure the metal goes all the way past the peel if using a citrus fruit. You can use more than one lemon too: Push a nail into one lemon and the copper into the other lemon. 
  5. Attach the alligator clips to the nail and to the copper item. Connect the ends of one alligator clip wire to a galvanized nail in one lemon and then the other end of the alligator clip wire to a piece of copper in another lemon.  When you are finished you should have one nail and one piece of copper unattached.
  6. Finally, connect the unattached piece of copper to the unattached nail to the positive and negative connections of your light. The lemon will act as the battery. 
Lemon battery project for kids
  • Following the instructions, my eight year old build a lemon powered battery that lit up a light bulb.  We tried a few more experiments, like the mini fruit clock that came in the kit.  We used it to make a lemon clock with the circuits!
Lemon battery project is a STEM for girls activity

Lemon Stem

This Lemon STEM activity is a great fine motor STEM idea. By pushing the nails and pennies into the lemon, cutting with a knife, and clipping alligator clips, you are building fine motor strength in a functional task.

Add a few other ways to support lemon stem too: Use wooden skewers to build an elevated lemon battery.

Provide a handful of wooden skewers and ask the children to build a contraption that is strong enough to hold a lemon up off the ground. This can take a bit of creativity and trial and error, so be sure use plenty of paper towels or a wash cloth to wipe off lemon juice.

  • We pulled out some bamboo skewers and created a sky high lemon battery and lit up the light bulbs using engineering in our STEM activity.
  • Try building a clock tower with the skewers and a lemon. Explore how to make electricity run the clock even when it’s elevated or in different weather conditions like rain or freezing temperatures.
  • With all of the zinc nail-punctured holes in our lemons, we HAD to squeeze the juice.  We tried to see if we could create a lemon clock using just the lemon juice in a cup.  It worked!  
  • After the lemons were juiced, we tried to make another light bulb glow using the rinds.  This time the lights did not brighten and we decided it was because the electrolytes were squeezed away into our lemon juice and the current stopped at the rind.  

Next, we used wooden skewers to create a clock tower. Press the skewers into the lemons and create a tower. You’ll need to figure out how to get the clock tower to stand without toppling, and using lemons as the base or at the connecting points. These lemons can also be connected to one another with the alligator clips, wires, and pennies or nails to conduct through the whole tower. 

After all of these experiments, we were feeling a little thirsty.  Non-lemon powered light bulbs went off and so my four year old had a bright idea to make lemonade.  We added water and sugar and drank away the electrolytes!

It was so much fun to see my girls working together, encouraging each other, (not fighting), and being inspired in science.  Someday they might look back at our experiment day and laugh at drinking their science experiment, but I’ll remember the sticky crumbs on the table, the goggles on the one year old, and the fun we all had learning together.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

STEM Fine Motor Activities

Fine motor STEM activities

Occupational therapists work with fine motor development as a cornerstone of treatment.  With the current trend toward STEM education, it makes sense to blend the two into fine motor STEM activities and treatment in order to be more efficient and effective.

Fine motor STEM activities

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 24%, while other occupations are growing at 4%.  Children in the United States score lower on science and math than students in other countries. 

The push for STEM curriculum helps bridge the gap between genders and races, that are sometimes found in science and math fields.  Students with special needs also lag in these academic areas. Research shows there are not enough students pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematic degrees, as compared to the available jobs.

According to the National Science Foundation, “In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.”

Why Fine Motor and STEM?

Science, technology, electronics and mathematics do not just involve cognitive ability. Fine motor skills are needed for STEM careers that involve typing, building, writing, solving equations, experimenting, research, surgery, as well as everyday function. 

STEM fine motor activities are going to be much more important to build these important skills. As technology gets more scientific and advanced, so too will the need for precise fine motor skills.  Surgeries are much more advanced than 100 years ago.  Engineers are working on tiny circuits and micro computers.

I saw a BMW prototype last week that morphs from a car to a plane that can soar over traffic!  Imagine the dexterity it takes to build that kind of machine!

When should I start working on STEM fine motor activities?  

Caregivers start addressing fine motor skills in babyhood. Encouraging a passion for science and technology can start at the same time.

Selecting a few fine motor toys for young learners that address fine motor skills while developing STEM education. 

For example, check out this super cute (Amazon affiliate link) Frog Balancing Game that can be modified for many different levels of learners. This one game involves:

  • math – counting, sorting, adding, number recognition
  • science -measuring weight, comparison
  • fine motor skills – pick up and manipulate the small objects, hold the cards
  • visual motor skills – read the cards and process the information

How do I make this transition to fine motor STEM?

Change is hard. Especially for seasoned therapists who have used a certain system for a long time, or feel that what they are doing works.  The good news is, you have already been doing STEM fine motor activities with your learners. 

Check out this link on Amazon (affiliate link) to toys/activities that address STEM fine motor activities and skills.

On The OT Toolbox, we share tons of fine motor activity ideas to incorporate STEM into fine motor treatment. Occupational therapists do not usually correlate these activities with STEM, but they fit into both categories.  

Remember pegboard Geo Boards?  This classic game builds fine motor strength, following directions, coordination, motor planning, visual motor skills, visual perception, frustration tolerance, and executive function.  It ALSO addresses math using measurement, shape recognition and patterns; science learning about rubber bands and tension; and engineering to create patterns from a picture.

Fine motor STEM and Lego  

Legos are another classic toy. Use activity analysis to break this game down into its fine motor components, as well as incorporating math, engineering, or technology. 

There is more to LEGO bricks than being able to follow a diagram to make a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle (love this by the way!).  Speaking of the Hogwarts castle, there was definitely math, engineering, AND fine motor skills needed to build that superstructure. 

Learners can also make graphs of their LEGO, use them for adding/subtracting, use engineering to create items with moving parts, and that is just the beginning. 

By thinking outside the box, learners with special needs can find their special ability using Legos also.

classic toys for STEM fine motor activities

The lists of (Amazon affiliate link) classic toys occupational therapists incorporate into treatment plans is endless.  Take another look at these classics to see how they fit into science, technology, engineering or math.  

  • Peg boards
  • Lacing cards
  • Magnets
  • Measuring tape
  • Swings
  • Pop the Pig, Connect 4, Trouble, Candy Land
  • Lincoln Logs, Connex, Erector Set
  • Baking
  • Slime

Fine motor and STEM activities do not have to include experiments, games, and hands-on activities.  Worksheets serve the purpose of addressing both categories very well. 

The OT Toolbox has great fine motor kits for each season that incorporate math and science along with addressing those needed fine motor skills. 

More ideas from the OT Toolbox

As a seasoned therapist myself, I may dig my heels in at the idea of changing the way I do treatment, or learning a new method. I give a heavy sigh of relief knowing I have been doing STEM all along. I just didn’t call it that. 

Even though occupational therapists are providing the right activities to work on goal achievement, they may be running into students with lack of motivation, refusal, and general dislike of many of the treatment ideas asked of them. 

Teachers and therapists need to help bridge this gap early on, and find a way to teach all learners a respect for STEM and fine motor education.

You are doing a great job incorporating what you already know, into something new!

Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

Evaporation Experiment

Evaporation experiment

This evaporation experiment uses recycled materials to explore evaporation. Kids can use the recycled materials projects as a science science experiment to explore how evaporation works with different sized containers.

Evaporation experiment for kids. This is a great fine motor activity, too!

Evaporation Experiment

This was SUCH a fun way to explore science with my kids.  We talked about water evaporation while engineering a few different water containers and working in a bit of math, too.  Getting outside to play is something we do everyday, so this outdoor STEM activity was a perfect way to bring a little bit of learning outdoors on a sunny day.

Evaporation experiment using recycled materials

Evaporation Experiment with Recycled Materials

Use bottle caps and recycled materials in an evaporation experiment for kids.

To complete this science experiment, we used all items from our recycle bin.  You’ll need a few items to do this evaporation experiment at home:

  • Lids from various containers. (We used lids of various sizes to explore how fast water would based on container size. Some lids you’ll want are deep lids, bottle caps, and low lids like one from a play dough canister.) If you have a recycled materials craft bin started, just pull from there.
  • Other recycled materials to see if we could adjust the lids that were alike.
  • Tape (This was the only non-recycled material that we used in this science experiment.)
  • Eye-dropper, small spoon, or a straw to drop water into the cups and containers.
Use these recycled materials in an evaporation experiment with preschoolers.

Evaporation Activity for Kids

To set up this evaporation experiment, we worked on a bit of fine motor skills and visual perceptual skills. First we expored each container, lid, and cup to determine which was biggest, smallest, and which we thought would hold more water.

This is a great evaporation activity for preschoolers!

Determining the containers by size allows preschoolers to explore visual perceptual skills and size concepts.

Next, you’ll need to add the same amount of water to each cup or container. There are several ways you can do this: by using an eye dropper, small spoon (like a teaspoon), or the end of a straw. We used a dropper to fill each lid with the same amount of water. Each lid had 10 ml of water.  

You can use the end of a straw to drop water drops into the cups. When you use the straw, kids are working on so many fine motor skills. We talked about how to do this (and why using a straw to drop water into the cups) is such an awesome way to build precision and dexterity in this butterfly painting craft.

My preschooler had fun scooping water into the lids and counted the measurements.

We then noticed how we had four containers that were all the same size.  The other lids were various sizes.  

To the four lids of the same size, we modified the containers slightly to see how the top would affect rate of evaporation.  We covered one with foil.  Another was covered with plastic wrap and poked with small holes. The third was covered with mesh. The fourth container was left open to the air.

Related: You could take this evaporation experiment further and use ice cubes that then melt and evaporate. Here is information on the motor benefits of scooping ice. The ice cubes would then have to melt to a liquid and then go through the process of evaporating to a gas state.

Evaporation Experiment Predictions

I asked my kids from which lid they thought water would evaporate more quickly.  

My preschooler said she thought the smallest lid (the bottle cap) would evaporate first because it was the smallest lid.  She thought the play dough lid’s water would evaporate slowest because it was the biggest lid.  She hypothesized that of the four containers that were the same size, the open container would evaporate first and the covered container would evaporate last. 

I thought her answers were interesting and clearly following Piaget’s conservation theory.  In this case, she thought the bottle cap appeared to have more water because it was filled to the brim, where the large and low play dough lid was only slightly covered with water.

Recycled materials water evaporation STEM Science experiment

My older kiddos had different answers:  They thought the play dough lid would evaporate first because it had less “deepness” (or depth).  We decided that the sun would shine and evaporate this lid’s water first.

They agreed with my preschooler when they said they thought the uncovered lid would evaporate before the covered lid. 

Recycled materials water evaporation STEM Science experiment

While we made good hypotheses with this experiment, we ran into a bit of bad weather luck following our outdoor science.  Our sunny day turned into several days of rain and gloomy skies.  We’re still waiting for our water to evaporate and will update this post when we have some results!

 Outdoor STEM ideas

This post is part of the 31 Days of Outdoor STEM Activities series.  Stop by and see all of the ideas shared.

Recycled materials water evaporation STEM Science experiment

You will love these STEM activities that we’ve shared:
Recycled materials Fulcrum and Lever
Lemon STEM science experiment ideas
Tinker Toys STEM Pulley

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Baking Soda Vinegar Powered Boat STEM

This baking soda and vinegar powered boat was such a fun way to build and explore movement powered by science.  My kiddos and a niece and nephew built this boat using recycled materials, (a lot like we did last week with our evaporation experiment).  This boat required a baking soda and vinegar reaction to power movement across water.  It’s the perfect outdoor STEM fine motor activity

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.


Baking Soda and Vinegar Powered Boat

This post contains affiliate links.

My kids LOVE baking soda and vinegar reaction STEM activities.  They’ve tried a rocket and volcano so I knew they would love this boat activity.

This recycled boat was pretty easy to put together.  We a recycled used Styrofoam egg carton to cut a triangular shape.  To that, we taped a plastic lid.  We used two small pieces of straws and taped them to the back of the boat and coming from the lid.  With that, our boat was ready for power.

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.

A tip for the boat construction:  Be sure the straws are taped securely in the lid and parallel to the water surface.  We used electrical tape for this job.

Next, fill the lid with baking soda.  We have this HUGE bag of baking soda and love it.  The quantity is perfect for experiments that kids want to do over and over again. 

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.

Carefully pour in vinegar and watch the boat sail across the water. We noticed that our first run was the best and we think it was because the straws were better positioned at the start of our STEM activity.  We also tried aiming the straws down into the water and that seemed to help with powering movement, better too.

 We did this boat activity in a tub outside, but want to try it in a larger area like a baby pool very soon.  One of the kids said we should build a cruise ship and make it go with baking soda and vinegar.  I’ll be sure to share how that project pans out 😉

This post is part of the 31 Days of Outdoor STEM series.  Stop by and see all of the STEM fun!

Baking soda and vinegar react in this movement and power STEM activity to power a boat made with recycled materials. This is a fun outdoor STEM science experiment for kids.

Let us know if you make a baking soda and vinegar powered boat!

More STEM ideas you will love:

Recycled Materials STEM Lever and Fulcrum

I love reusing recyclables in crafts and activities.  One thing my kids might love even more is science and STEM activities.  We decided to use some materials we had in the recycle bin to make a lever and fulcrum.  This is a perfect STEM activity to do with the kids over the summer to promote learning, creativity, and problem solving.  The Summer Slide is a real thing and simple, easy projects like this one are fun ways to build skills as a family.  Our Lever and Fulcrum STEM activity led to cheers with all four of the kids. This is a fun STEM fine motor activity kids will love.

And when the kids are cheering for science, engineering, and math, it is perfectly OK for Mom to do an inner cheer, too.
Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!

Recycled Materials Lever and Fulcrum STEM Activity

There are so many items found in your recycle bin that can be used in STEM activities.  Today, we pulled out a few materials to build a lever and fulcrum.  We used a recycled chopstick, a toilet paper tube, and two coffee pods.  

Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!
To make the lever and fulcrum:  Poke a hole in each of the coffee pods.  We used a sharp skewer to do this.  you will want the holes to be at the same height on each pod.  Insert one end of the chop stick into each pod.  Finally, fold the toilet paper tube into a triangular shape. The cardboard tube will be the fulcrum and the chop stick can rest evenly on the tube and act as a lever. 
Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!
Now for the fun part:  It was time to play and learn with our STEM activity!
  • We added crafting pom poms to each cup and counted how many were needed to keep the lever even.  
  • We talked about the distance between the ends of the chop stick and how the fulcrum needed to be in the center in order for the lever to be even.  
  • We tried moving the fulcrum and measured the distance between the ends of the chop stick and the fulcrum.  
  • When the fulcrum was off center, we counted how many craft pom poms were needed to make the lever even again. 
I was kind of amazed at how much all four of my kids were totally absorbed by this STEM activity.  It was enough to make me smile (and cheer some more, on the inside!) for their love of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Build a lever and fulcrum with recycled materials in this STEM activity that is perfect for kids to do over the summer at home or at summer camp to prevent the summer slide!

STEM Summer Camp


Tinker Toys STEM Pulley

This week in our Early Learning series, we’re covering STEM.  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are all over the place these days.  And there is good reason, we love this occupational therapy toy, too.  STEM learning is present in classrooms, summer camps, after-school programs, and even library programs. As a benefit, STEM fine motor activities build coordination and hand strength. Today, I’m sharing classic STEM.  This is the STEM of my childhood and one that I’m so excited to share with my kids: Tinker Toys!  

We used the classic toy, Tinker Toys with STEM concepts to create a Tinker Toy pulley.  Now, this was fun!

Build a Tinker Toys Pulley system and explore STEM concepts in learning with kids.

Tinker Toys STEM project: Build a Pulley

This post contains affiliate links.

We were lucky enough to find a set of Tinker Toys at a garage sale but they are available here.  Our set is a little beat up (And it even has original container from years gone by!) but it worked for building a pulley system.  This was a hit with my kids as we discovered and explored all four parts of STEM education:

Build a Tinker Toys Pulley system and explore STEM concepts in learning with kids.

Science with Tinker Toys– We talked about the physics behind a pulley system, including the load and the effort required to make the pulley work. Our pulley was designed to pull a string along a strait path to carry a load from one point to another.  We talked about energy with our pulley.

Technology with Tinker ToysI’ve read that the technology portion of STEM learning can relate to any product made that meets a need or want, including items like a pencil or a chair.   Our technology was the machine (the pulley) that could transport items from one place to another.  We created a machine to do a job.

Engineering with Tinker Toys–  Tinker Toys might be one of the most classic engineering toys there is.  Children of all ages have used these building toys to create whatever their imagination could dream up.  We were able to engineer a pulley system with trial and error to find the right height, length, and support for our pulley.  After trial and error, we determined that our pulley needed a better base of support.  To adjust for lack of width in the base, we added play dough to hold the legs in place.

Math with Tinker Toys–  For our pulley, we tried different lengths of string.  We measured the lengths and decided on the best length to pull clothes pins from one point to anther.  We then added more clothes pins and noted how much the string drooped when we added more pins.  We then had to adjust the distance of the pulley legs to accommodate the weight.   What a great way to combine math and engineering in this “tinkering” STEM activity! 

NOTE: Our clothes pins were multi-colored but I’m not able to find that exact item anymore.  You are able to purchase individual colors of clothes pins, here.  

Build a Tinker Toys Pulley system and explore STEM concepts in learning with kids.
Build a Tinker Toys Pulley system and explore STEM concepts in learning with kids.

Looking for more STEM activities for kids?  Try these:

Build a Tinker Toys Pulley system and explore STEM concepts in learning with kids.
Love this idea?  SHARE it on Facebook! 

Tell me, did you play with Tinker Toys as a kid?  Have you ever made a pulley as a child?

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Experiments with Air Drag and Streamlined Shapes

This aerodynamics experiment explores streamlined vehicles and is a STEM car experiment with an added mix of fine motor skill work. It’s a fun discovery activity for kids! Today’s experiment with streamlined vehicles and shapes was a very fun way to learn about air drag!

Aerodynamics Experiment

My son loves anything with experiments or discovery, so this STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activity was right up his alley.  We discovered why sports cars have pointed fronts and a little about how an object’s shape affects it’s movement with drag and airflow.  
Experiment with streamlined shapes and airflow to discover drag.  This is a fun STEM activity for kids!


What is air resistance and drag?

In this experiment, we explore air resistance and drag. Both can be visually seen in the car experiment below.

Air resistance refers to the force of air against an object as it moves. In the case of a vehicle, the air has some resistance against the front of the vehicle. Larger vehicles have more physical space pushing against air in front of it as it moves along a road. A smaller, more compact car has less space to resist against the force of air.  

Drag is air resistance caused by disturbances in the flow of air over an object.  This force slows down moving objects like the cars in our experiment.  

A streamlined shape is one that has less drag, or friction between the surface of the shape and the air resistance as the shape moves through the space. For example, a streamlined shape on a vehicle would have a low and triangular hood (think: race car) as opposed to a boxy rectangular front of a dump truck. The shapes of vehicles are typically designed to be streamlined so that there is less drag from the resistance of air as they move along a road.


Experimenting with Shapes for Air Drag and Resistance

In this experiment, we are exploring shapes for the resistance they have against the force of air as it moves through space. Streamlined vehicles and boxy, large, or square-shaped vehicles move through air and the space of the road differently. We wanted to take a look at these differences and see how a streamlined car moves.

We used just a few materials for this experiment (I’m including the affiliate links for your convenience.)

You’ll need: 

  1. Two identical toy cars.  We used ones similar to these.
  2. colored cardstock, cut into rectangles
  3. clear tape
  4. hair dryer
  5. foam board
  6. stack of books
streamlined shapes vehicles and experiments with airflow and drag.
This is an easy STEM activity to set up.  
  1. Cut the cardstock into strips that are as wide as the cars.  You’ll want the length to be a little longer than the cars, but even with the end.  
  2. I taped the edge of the cardstock rectangle to the front of each car, then bent one into a curved shape and the other into an right angle shape.  
  3. The cardstock is a good material for this experiment because it holds the curve and angled shapes well.  Regular paper will not work as well.  
  4. Finally, snip the edge of the cardstock so that it ends at the end of each car.

Prediction:  Ask your child their predictions!  What will the shapes do to the cars?  Will one shape go faster? Why?  What will happen when air is applied to the cars?  

Experimenting with streamlined shapes
Now comes the fun part: the streamlined shapes experiment!


Stack a few books and prop one end of the foam board up.  You can use any flat surface for this project, but the foam board was the right length and perfect for both cars to travel without sailing over the edge.  


First line each car up on the edge of the foam board.  This is a fun activity in itself; sending toy cars down planks and ramps is a great boredom buster! 
Experiment with force, but just tapping the cars down the ramp and pushing.  More force gives them more speed!  We noticed that both cars went down the ramp at the same time.   
Be sure to push the cars over the edge of the ramp at exactly the same time.


Experiment with air flow, drag, and resistance with streamlined shapes
Next, we applied a source of air to the bottom of the ramp.  Turn on the hair dryer and aim the air toward the cars going down the ramp.  Now, the curved car went faster!  

What is happening in this streamlined shape experiment?  

The car with the streamlined shape travels faster because it’s shape disturbs less of the air.  The car with the angular shape disturbs air as it travels.  This un-streamlined shape increases the force called drag and slows the car down.  

Have fun with your air flow experiments!  You might also like our Bernoulli’s Principle air glider project: 



Bernoulli’s Principle Tissue Paper Glider

make a tissue paper glider

Today we’re excited to share how to make glider using tissue paper. This tissue paper glider is a fun way to build a project together with the kids and explore airfoil and Bernoulli’s Principle.  Using just a few materials, you can easily construct this glider and watch it sail! Add this simple experiment to your list of discovery activities that support exploration, STEM, and fine motor skills!

how to make a delta sale glider from tissue paper. This is a fun glider activity for kids to explain airfoil and Bernoulli's Principle as well as answer the question: "why do airplanes stay in the sky?"
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Bernoulli’s Principle for Kids

My kids love to watch for airplanes flying overhead when we are outside. They’ve asked a few times how the planes stay in the sky.  We made this simple glider as a way to play and explore Bernoulli’s Principle while learning about flying.  
First we talked about Bernoulli’s Principle.  This principle tells us that when the speed of air (or water/oil/etc) increases, it’s pressure decreases.  To fly, a plan requires airfoil (a wing or surface that air flows around) to glide on the wind. The surface of a wing (airfoil) is designed to provide lift using Bernoulli’s Principle.  the wing/airfoil makes air move faster over the top and creates a low pressure area above the glider or airplane.  This lifts the plane or glider and keeps it in the air.
We decided to explore this principle a bit more by making a Delta Wing Airfoil

What is a Delta Wing Airfoil?

Essentially, a delta wing airfoil is a triangular shaped wing.  A glider that a person can ride is a delta wing airfoil.  We made one on a much smaller scale using straws and tissue paper.

How to make a glider:

You’ll need just a few items to make a glider.

Gather the items you need for the tissue glider and then get started:

  1. To make the frame of your glider, roll the end of one straw and insert it into the end of another straw.  
  2. Connect three straws this way to make two long sections of straws.  
  3. Attach these two long sections and bend them into a sharp point.  
  4. Add tape to support the angle.  This will be the point of the glider.
  5. Connect two straws in the same manner.  
  6. Attach the ends to the long straw sections and tape into angles.  
  7. Add tape to the connecting points of the straws.
  8. Next, cover the frame with tissue paper.  We covered both sides of the frame and used tow pieces of tissue paper, but you could cover just one side.  
  9. Use tape to secure the paper.  (You may need more tissue paper depending on the size of your sheets of tissue paper.)
How to make a tissue paper glider with kids.  Exploring Bernoulli's Principle
Next, go outside and launch your glider!  Hold both of the long sides of the triangle over your head and GENTLY toss the glider upward.  It will take practice to get the glider to sail, but once you get the hang of it, you can really have fun with watching it sail!  
Talk about Bernoulli’s Principle at work to keep the glider sailing through the air.  
Other concepts you can discuss include talking about air drag and streamlined shapes.
This post is part of Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails’ A-Z Science Experiments series.