Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Launching Tin Cans - Make Firecrackers Last for Hours!

Well you might want to gather your husbands, brothers, sons, and teenagers around the ol' blog for a few minutes. I'm going to share some 4th of July fun that's aimed right at them!  This fun little experiment involves science AND explosives (come on, who doesn't love that?!). Many moons ago when my hubby Mr. D introduced this little trick into our family one sunny fourth of July afternoon, he was immediately welcomed into the clan.  With only a few simple items he kept the whole family entertained (kids and adults alike) by launching tin cans into the air for hours.

How high can you launch this can? Let's find OUT!
I am going to give you a play by play picture tutorial so you too can have some extra fun this fourth of July!  I'd say the BEST part of this explosive experiment is that you take something that, if normally lit, would last about 3.4 seconds.

watch your money vanish quicker than quick

OR... you can make this same pack of firecrackers last for hours!  The whole afternoon, even.  Okay, so let's gather the few things you will need to make this work.  You will need:

1 regular tin can (corn, beans, etc). Open, drained, rinsed, and label removed
1 larger can (coffee) lid removed
a hammer
a nail
package of simple firecrackers
a long lighter
adult supervision coupled with copious amounts of common sense

A small but mighty "Kit-O' Fun" for you and yours.
Okay first things first.  A safety warning.  Clearly these are fireworks and need to be handled with caution.  We will be using water pressure and science to launch a tin can high in the air.  Adult supervision, the ability to run for cover, a large open space, and a bucket of water on stand by are all good ideas.  Now onto the good stuff.

Take your opened, drained, rinsed, label-removed tin can and turn it upside down.  Take your nail and place it in the center of the can. 

Mr. D demonstrating the hammer/nail effect
Gently tap the nail into the can, making a small hole.

Now you want to find the package of regular firecrackers you will be using.

They tend to come with the fuses twisted together.  You will need to carefully pull them apart so they are all single use firecrackers 

Firecrackers come in all different sizes and you need to make your hole fit these perfectly.  After you separate them into individual firecrackers, take the nail out of the can and see if your firecracker will fit.

The hole will most likely not be big enough at first and you will need to widen  it a bit.

Mr. D just takes the same nail and lowering it down at an angle, spins it around with some pressure to widen the hole. Keep testing it little by little.  You are going to want the firecracker to be able to slide down and fit snugly into the hole, but NOT fall in.  Just the tip of the firecracker and the fuse should be sticking out of the top of the can.

Is this exciting or what?!
Now let's focus on the larger coffee can.  We are going to fill this with about 1 inch of water.

By the way, if you don't have a larger coffee type can, you can also use a heavy duty bucket.

This was Mr D back in 2008, we had two (count um) TWO buckets for launching
Once the large can (or bucket) is filled with an inch of water, place the smaller can, loaded with the firecracker sticking out of the top, down into the water.

What it will look like when you look down in the can:

The water doesn't show up on camera, but it's there and it's what makes this little science experiment work
Now you are ready to initiate the launch sequence.  This is where you are going to want a lot of space: A large patch of grass with plenty of space to move and launch your cans. It's a good idea to make sure no kids, pets, or gawkers (believe me, they will gather after you start this) are in the drop zone.

Now using your "go go gadget arm" you want to carefully reach into the can with a long lighter and light the fuse

 Then, using your ninja like skills, run as fast as you can away from the can.

Where's Mr. D? Oh he ran to safety already.  Hopefully you will have enough time to not only run away, but to turn and watch.  The water pressure at the bottom of the can makes a seal, and when the firecracker goes off, it will launch the can high in the air.

Hard to catch on camera, but I got one!  Can shot high in the air
Yes with a satisfying pop your can will sail high into the air with a trail of smoke behind it and land somewhere close by. Adults will nod approvingly, kids will squeal with glee and say "AGAIN AGAIN", teenagers with their face stuck in their smart phone checking their facebook status will raise their heads in confusion and start to wander over... and you will have family fun science-y entertainment that will last all afternoon!!  When you approach the launched can by the way, be sure to give it a few seconds to cool down, as it could be a little hot to the touch.  After that you are ready to launch again.  Get two buckets, have a little competition, who's bucket will launch the higher can?  The possibilities are endless.  Everyone is going to want to try and launch their own.  So have some extra fun this 4th of July and launch those cans to Timbuktu!

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