Expand Images

Exploring STEM With Water

It’s amazing how much you can learn with H2O and a few household items.
By Paul Griffo
Photos: Paul Griffo

If supplies are hard to come by during the Stay-at-Home order, take heart. Here are some STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) activities you can do with water and a few things you probably have around the house.

Water glass xylophone

Make a water glass xylophone

To make a simple water glass xylophone, you only need a pitcher, a few water glasses, some water and a wooden spoon. The glasses should all be the same size and shape. By filling each glass with different levels of water, you can explore the science of acoustics — and make beautiful music.

Questions to explore on your own:

  • What causes the sound when I tap the glass with the spoon?
  • Why does the note get lower when I put more water in the glass?
  • What is sound and how does it travel to my ears?
  • What is a better conductor of sound waves: glass, water or air?
  • What is the science of acoustics?
Compass

Make a floating needle compass

Which way is north? To find out, try making a compass out of a shallow bowl or plate of water, a needle and a few other materials. You’ll end up with a real compass that will point you in the right direction. Completing this fun project will introduce you to the concept of magnetism and the Earth’s magnetic field.

Questions to explore on your own:

  • What is causing the needle to move?
  • How is the Earth like a magnet?
  • What creates the Earth’s magnetic field
  • What animals can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, and what do they use it for?
Bend water

Hold water in an upside-down glass

Presto! Defy gravity by keeping water inside a water glass even after you flip it upside down. All you need is a drinking glass, water and a note card. Hint: Do this one outside, over the sink or over a plastic tub, or you might get water everywhere. You will see how a force all around us is stronger than the weight of the water inside the glass.

Questions to explore on your own:

  • What is holding the card in place and keeping the water from spilling out?
  • What causes atmospheric pressure?
  • How many pounds per square inch is the Earth’s atmospheric pressure at sea level?
  • What would happen if the Earth’s atmosphere suddenly vanished?
  • What is the science of meteorology?
Bend water

Magically bend water

Did you ever touch someone and get a sudden shock? That’s because of static electricity. In this experiment, you will use static electricity in a plastic comb to bend a stream of water. It looks like magic, but it’s science. This experiment helps you understand neutral, positive and negative electrical charges.

Questions to explore on your own:

  • What is happening to the comb when I run it through my hair?
  • Is the charge in the comb negative, positive or neutral?
  • What causes the water to bend?
  • What other objects could I use to bend the stream of water?

Check out more STEM-related games and activities at SCE’s e-SMART website.