Turn a Skateboard Into a Rocket With Mentos and Coke
Want to see what happens when you mix things together that you know will explode?
Make a skateboard rocket car with your kids.
Just mix soda and Mentos candies together to create an explosive geyser.
In this article I’ll show you how to turn a Mentos soda geyser on its side and transform it into a skateboard rocket.
Why Make a Skateboard Rocket Car?
Because it’s so cool!
When you shake up a bottle of soda, the soda and air create a powerful explosion. Now, imagine what happens when you attach that soda to a movable object. Vroom, vroom! And away it goes.
Perform scientific experiments with your kids. It’s an excellent way to bond with them, and you’ll discover how things work in the process. Your kids may not even realize they’re doing science. They’re just having a good time!
Steve shares a little history about the Mentos and Diet Coke reaction.
It doesn’t matter whether you use this as a school experiment or just for fun. Once you get the basics, there are many different options you can use. Try a variety of drinks and different movable objects, and see what happens.
Mix and match different elements. Keep track on paper as you go along, and see which combination gets the most distance.
Check out the skateboard rocket car in action before you make your own.
Check out this experiment in action!
Let’s get started!
#1: Prep Your Experiment
Find a safe and suitable launch site for your skateboard rocket car. Empty paved parking lots or paved driveways work great as launch areas.
Lay the diet soda bottle on the skateboard. Don’t attach it yet. The soda should lie on the skateboard so that the geyser has a clear shot backward.
Check out the design of your skateboard. If the skateboard tips curve up on the ends, the geyser might be deflected and the skateboard won’t move much. You may need to add some layers of cardboard between the soda bottle and the skateboard, so the rocket “exhaust” clears the tip of the skateboard.
Make sure there is plenty of room behind the geyser because when it launches, it’ll really take off!
#2: Put Together Your Skateboard Rocket Car
When you’ve got the bottle placed just the way you want it, grab the duct tape. Any color of duct tape will do, but even scientists need to let their inner expressive selves loose sometimes.
Have your kid hold the bottle tightly as you wrap the duct tape once around the lower end of it and the skateboard. Then wrap tape once around the top end of the bottle and the skateboard near its tip. Now that the bottle and the board are joined together, you’ve made a launching system!
Put the system on the ground and check the alignment of the bottle with the skateboard. It should be straight and centered. The capped end of the bottle needs to be above the curved tips of the skateboard.
When you’re happy with the placement of the system, wrap two more layers of duct tape around each end of it right on top of the first layer.
Hold the system off of the ground, keeping it vertical, with the top of the bottle pointing up. Remove the bottle cap. Now you’re getting serious!
If you aren’t using a Geyser Tube, open one end of the Mentos package and loosen the mints a little so they can slide out easily.
Have your child hold the mints in one hand and place the open end of the Mentos package above the opening of the bottle (or trade places and you do it). Then, lift the package straight up and slide all of the Mentos mints into the soda all at once with the other hand.
Here’s how to do this: Pinch the closed end of the wrapper between your fingers and slide the mints toward the open end. This will push the Mentos quickly into the bottle in one continuous motion.
You can also roll a piece of paper in a cone shape and drop them in similarly.
Note: It is essential, but tricky, to drop all of the mints into the bottle at the same time. If they don’t fall into the bottle at the same time, the reaction will start before you’re ready and your skateboard rocket car may take off too soon!
There’s only a split second to set the system on the ground before the geyser erupts and forces the skateboard rocket car downrange.
Once the Mentos drop into the bottle, place the skateboard rocket car on the ground as fast as you can and get out of the way! If you hesitate, you’ll get a tasty but very messy shower and then, aw shucks, you’ll have to do it again.
#4: Take It Further With Variations
The skateboard rocket car is an activity you and your now diet soda–soaked kid will want to do over and over.
Perform the activity again using a different variable—a different brand of diet soda, a different type of soda (regular instead of diet), a different-sized bottle of soda, a different type of mint, a different skateboard or sturdy toy car.
The options are endless, so keep experimenting, all in the name of science… or just because it’s really fun!
How Does It Work?
Soda pop basically consists of lots of sugar (sucrose, fructose or a diet sweetener), some flavoring, water and preservatives.
What gives soda its bubbly appeal is invisible carbon dioxide gas (CO2), which is forced into the liquid using tons of pressure. Until you open a soda, which makes lots of room, the gas mostly stays suspended in the liquid and can’t collect to form bubbles, which is what gases naturally do.
Even when the bottle is open, however, most of the gas stays in the liquid and provides the fizziness of the soda.
However, if you shake the soda and then open it, the gas is quickly released from the protective hold of the water molecules and escapes with a whoosh, taking some of the liquid along with it.
The Mentos Secret:
The reason why Mentos mints work so well is because of two elements: the very tiny pits on the surface of the mint and the weight of the mints themselves.
Each mint has thousands of micro-pits all over its surface. These tiny pits are called nucleation sites, and they’re perfect places for carbon dioxide bubbles to form. As soon as the Mentos hit the soda, bubbles form all over the surfaces of the mints and then quickly rise to the surface of the liquid.
Couple this with the fact that the mints are heavy and sink to the bottom of the bottle, and you’ve got a double whammy. The gas released by the Mentos literally pushes all of the liquid up and out of the bottle in an incredible soda blast.
Some Final Thoughts…
Experiments are a fun way for kids and parents to try new things together. Take notes, so you can track your experiments.
Come up with ways to take this experiment even further. See which liquids work best, what size bottles were most effective, etc. Then measure the soda streak on the pavement and see how far you can get the car to go.
Celebrate your success with a refreshing drink. Make sure you put a bottle of soda aside, so you can do just that!
What do you think? How far did your skateboard rocket go? What liquid worked best? Did you use a special design? Which conditions and materials created the best rocket? We want to see your homemade skateboard rockets. Share a photo below and tell us how your experiment worked.
Steve Spangler is an author, teacher, toy designer, Emmy award-winning television personality and creator of a huge soda mess. His appearances on television demonstrate his passion for making learning fun. Other posts by Steve Spangler »