Did you know that rubber bands are full of energy? It’s called Potential energy, because they have the potential to make something happen. (Have you ever pulled and released a rubber band? You can feel that energy!) This experiment will let you test and see different forms of energy. Once you send cotton balls flying, you’ll be witnessing Kinetic energy, which is what is happening when an object is in motion. Try this experiment and watch energy in action!
Cotton Ball Launcher
- 2 toilet paper tubes (or a paper towel tube cut in half)
- A short pencil or stick (popsicle stick would work)
- 2 thin rubber bands
- Duct tape
- Single hole puncher
- Cotton balls!
Step 1: Cut one tube in half, length wise.
Step 2: Squeeze the roll so it becomes about half the diameter it was before and tape it in place.
Step 3: Make two holes (either using scissors or a hole punch depending on the shape of your stick) opposite each other a half inch from the end.
Step 4: Slide the pencil or stick all the way through the tube.
Step 5: Using the second tube, cut two slits into the end of the tube about ¼ inch deep and about ½ in apart on one side of the tube; Repeat the same process on the same end of the tube just across from the first two.
Step 6: Loop one rubber band through the slits on one side of the tube and let it hang. Then, repeat with another rubber band through the slits on the other side. (you’ll have two rubber bands hanging)
Step 7: Add a piece of tape over both slits to reinforce the cardboard where the rubber bands are attached.
Step 8: Slide the tube with the pencil/stick into the larger tube so that the pencil is at one end and the rubber bands are at the opposite.
Step 9: Loop each rubber band around the pencil.
Step 10: Hold the tube so that the pencil/stick is at the bottom and place a cotton ball inside the top.
Step 11: Hold your launcher pointing away from any person or animal and pull the pencil back about two inches… Aim & release to see your cotton ball fly!
The rubber bands store potential energy.
The farther you pull them back the greater the potential energy.
Once you release the bands, the energy becomes “Kinetic” as the cotton balls fly through the air!