On the 18th November 2009 a group of Physics teachers from South Wales met in Caerleon School to build giant air cannons out of a 200 litres water butt. I organised the event with Cerian Angharad’s help (South Wales Network Coordinator) and the lovely cakes that Ann Dunster (Head of Physics at the school) provided! All the equipment could be found in Wickes (though the first time I went to buy some of these huge water butts in the Cardiff branch, they told me they either got lost, or stolen… Mmm I still have to figure that one out).

Cutting holes through the butt

These chaps were not very happy when I produced my electric saw after they struggled for 15 minutes to cut their butt with a wood knife, but certainly that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

This workshop is very useful if you are organising some spectacular activities for your Open Evening. I trialled it in my school (Croesyceiliog School, Cwmbran) and both parents and children loved it. In fact, we filled the giant air cannon with fog from a smoke machine and started shooting at people, who would see these massive smoke circles getting towards them and eventually blasting in their faces! But the fun was not over because we used McFlurry cups and tops to get the children to make their own mini-airzookas. And again the kids loved it, because they could take a little present home that costed nothing to my department, but was good fun for them.

Blasting the cameraman!

The below video shows how you can make you mini-aizooka. All you need to do is going to McDonald and order a McFlurry icecream. The rest you probably have in your house!

But what is the educational value, you might think! Well, there are a number of projects and experiments you pupils could carry out with their mini-airzookas:

1. They could make some observations about what affects the shape, speed and distance travelled by the smoke ring. E.g. by tapping the rubber in different ways, by pulling it and releasing it, etc…

2. They could try to measure the speed of the smoke rings and/or the distance travelled when they tap using more and more force. This activity could generate some very good discussions about reliability of results and method.

3. They could also measure the diameter of the rings at a certain distance from the cannon.

4. A follow on from experiment 2 could be a project were they need to design and build the most reliable tapping mechanism they can. You could even embed this as part of a long term project on electromagnetism, as the children could try to make an eletromagnetic tapper, and so on.

Please, add some more suggestions as comments!

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Comments
  1. Keith says:

    The big Airzooka’s look fun. We have used the smaller commercial one for several years as a subject for Year 13 practical investigations ( OCR B Advancing Physics )

    Lots of variables to change measure, lots of scope for different measurement methods too.

  2. Trudi Seamen says:

    Really enjoyed reading the articles on this site

  3. Really great post, sounds fun. Very creative thinking.

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