The Antacid Rocket Experiment

a.k.a Film Canister Rockets

Boy and rocket
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If your child has tried the Naked Egg Experiment, he has seen how the chemical reaction between calcium carbonate and vinegar can remove an eggshell. If he’s tried The Exploding Sandwich Bag Experiment, then he knows a little bit about acid-base reactions.

Now he can harness that reaction create a flying object in this Antacid Rocket Experiment. With some open space outdoors and a little caution your child can send a homemade rocket into the air by the power of a fizzy reaction.

Note: The Antacid Rocket Experiment used to be called the Film Canister Rockets, but with digital cameras taking over the market, it’s become harder and harder to find empty film canisters. If you can film canisters, that’s great, but this experiment recommends you use mini M&M tubular containers or clean, empty glue stick containers instead.

What Your Child Will Learn (or Practice):

  • Scientific inquiry
  • Observing chemical reactions
  • The Scientific Method

Materials Needed:

  • Mini M&Ms tube, a clean used-up glue stick container or a film canister
  • Heavy paper/card stock
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Tissues
  • Antacid tablets (Alka-Seltzer or a generic brand)
  • Soda (optional)

Tissues are not a necessity for this experiment, but using tissue can help to delay the chemical reaction long enough to give your child some time to get out of the way.

Make Baking Soda and Vinegar Rockets

  1. Have your child sketch out and decorate a small rocket on a piece of heavy paper. Ask her to cut out the rocket and set it to the side.
  1. Help your child cut the “hinge” holding the cover to the M&Ms tube so it comes on and off. This will be the bottom of the rocket.
  2. Give her another piece of heavy paper and have her roll it around the tube, making sure the bottom of the rocket is easily accessible. Then, have her tape it tightly in place. (She may need to cut the paper to make it fit better).
  1. Glue the rocket she drew and cut out to the front of the tube to make the whole thing look more like a real rocket.
  2. Move outside to a clear, open area and open the container
  3. Fill it one-quarter full with vinegar.
  4. Wrap 1 teaspoon of baking soda in small piece of tissue.
  5. Warning: You must act quickly in this step! Stuff the folded tissue in the tube, snap it shut and stand it up (with the lid down) on the ground. Move away!
  6. Watch the rocket pop right up into the air after the tissue dissolves in the vinegar.

Make an Antacid Rocket

  1. Use the same rocket from the baking soda and vinegar experiment, making sure to clean it thoroughly first.
  2. Take off the cover and put an antacid tablet into the tube. You may have to break it into pieces to get it all to fit. You can use generic antacid tablets but Alka-Seltzer works better than generic brands.
  3. Add a teaspoon of water to the tube, snap on the cover and put the rocket--lid down--on the ground.
  4. Watch what happens once the water dissolves the antacid tablet.

What’s Going On

Both rockets are working under the same principle. A baking soda and vinegar mixture and the water and antacid combination create an acid-base chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide gas.

The gas fills the tube and the the air pressure builds to a point where it is too great to be contained. That’s when the lid pops off and the rocket flies up into the air.

Extend the Learning

  • Experiment with different types of paper and how much baking soda and vinegar you use. It may help make the rocket fly higher, faster, or even be coordinated to a countdown.
  • Ask your child compare how the different rockets worked. Which worked better?
  • Substitute soda for water in the antacid rocket and see if it works differently.