The time has finally arrived where you must learn how to make a volcano. Amongst the wealth of other science fair topic options, the volcano has staked its claim as one of the best, most visually appealing and scientifically grounded projects that a student may choose to do. Because of the numerous steps and products involved, however, your volcano project final product can either be a massive work of beauty, or it can be destined for science fair humiliation if not executed correctly. Have no fear, though, because the following steps will detail just how you should go about making your homemade science fair project volcano a tremendous success.
While I can't promise you a definitive victory over your peers, with the following steps, you'll at least stand a very good chance. In the below list, I have provided a basic compilation of the products you'll need in order to execute your volcano project. Unfortunately, dependent upon where you look, you may discover an entirely different way of doing this. Even though the final results may be similar, it is certainly possible that different items could be used. For this reason, in this Info Barrel 'How-to' article, I have also included alternative materials that you may consider using in order to further reinforce your volcano with an even more aesthetically appealing, and sound, design.
Things You Will Need
- a Cardboard Box (or Plywood)
- a Tin Can (or a 2-Lite Soda Bottle)
- Newspaper Material (or Paper Mache, Salt Dough, or Plaster)
- a Bag of Flour
- a Mixing Bowl
- a Spoon
- Paint (Spray Paint or Acrylic Paint)
- Clear Sealant
- Dinosaur Figurines and LEGO Men
- Baking Soda
- a Glass or Cup
- Food Coloring
Because there are just so many supplies required to make a volcano project, it is important that you first take the necessary time to gather and organize your supplies (listed above). While you will, most likely, have just about all the supplies you need available at your own home, you may need to run out to your local supermarket in order to obtain any products or supplies that you are missing. Because each product will be used towards making all elements involved in your Volcano project an absolute success, it is very important that you have each one of the products listed above.
These products will provide your volcano project with a sound structure, as well as, a dynamic end-state effect that will absolutely stun your audience.
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Later on in this article, I will show you each and every product you will need in order to create your own volcano. You can, however, skip these steps by simply purchasing your own volcano kit that will erupt with bubbly, fizzy lava. Either way of manufacturing your volcano will work just fine! Rather than purchasing all the material, the most cost effective method of creating your own volcano well will be to utilize a volcano science kit.
Providing a firm foundation for your Volcano project is absolutely critical in this process. Unfortunately, there are many ways that you can go about doing this, with each being similar dependent, of course, on the material you use as your foundation. While you can use a cardboard box, as I have included in my list of "things you'll need", you can also use plywood. Plywood may prove to be a little sturdier than the cardboard box. Either will do just fine, although, if you do use plywood for your volcano project foundation, it should be at least 7-9 inches wider than your expected width of your volcano.
Allowing for this extra width of free space will be important so that your volcano's eruption fluid concoction doesn't stain any underlying surfaces, whether you are presenting your project in a gymnasium, and auditorium, or a classroom. You can easily mark the furthest extent that you hope for your volcano to be, with a black permanent marker, on the actual plywood. This isn't absolutely necessary; however, it will give you a good visual representation of just how wide you hope for your volcano to be.
Once you have established a sound foundation with your cardboard box or plywood (or both, with your cardboard box sitting on top of your plywood), you need to attach your tin can to the top with tape. This tape should secure your tin can tightly to the top, flat, surface of your card board box. In order to do this, you may want to consider extending four pieces of tape, from each diverging portion of your tin can, to the of the card board box. Your tin can should now be standing, securely, upright, while being centered in the middle of your cardboard box.
An alternative way of doing this is to utilize a two-liter empty soda bottle that will be place on top of your plywood foundation. From Coke to Mountain Dew, it really doesn't matter what color this soda bottle is because it will be completely concealed by the exterior of your volcano anyway.
Like each step mentioned previously, there are variety of ways, and extra/different materials, that you can use to make the exterior 'shell' of your volcano project. While I have provided you with a newspaper in the above needed items list, you can also use plaster, paper-mache, or salt dough in order to form a mountain-like cone that completely engulfs around the tin can, or soda bottle. If you choose to use newspaper, you can use your tape generously to secure it to the sides of your upright tin can, which is strategically centered in the middle of your cardboard box, or plywood, base.
In whatever material(s) you decide to use, it is important that you make natural-looking channels and ridges for your 'lave' concoction to flow through. These earth elements should extend from the very top of your volcano project to the base.
If you choose to use newspaper to make the external layer of your volcano project, you will need to mix your water and flour thoroughly, in your mixing bowl, in order to make a paste. This paste will be used in order to further paste strips of newspaper to the exterior of what you have completed already. You should only do this if you have used newspaper, primarily, rather than paper mache, salt dough, or plaster. This will be done because you will need create a surface that is readily paintable.
Had you not created this extra layer of newspaper strips, extending from the top hole of your volcano project to the bottom base, it would be very difficult to paint it especially with the crumbled up crevices of the first newspaper sheets you placed.
Allowing time for your volcano project to dry is a very important step in this process. Whether you are using newspaper, or any of the other materials listed, the drying process will be necessary in order to provide you with dry surface that is ready to be painted.
Once your volcano project has dried, you can proceed to paint the exterior surface with either spray paint or acrylic paint. It is at this point where your creativity and imagination should take hold. You can use your textbook, or a different book reference, to help guide you with pictures of what a volcano should look like. Not all volcanoes are created the equal; however, because they are produced by the earth, you will generally be safe in using a variation of brown paints, and mild greens in order to represent outlying vegetation.
After your paint has completely dried, if you are using plywood, you can now proceed to spray your plywood, and volcano, with the clear sealant I have listed above. You will do this step even if you used a cardboard box as your volcano project's foundation.
At this time, it is now safe to exercise
your creative liberties even more with your volcano project. In order to complement your exterior painting masterpiece, you can also include anything from dinosaur figurines to little plastic LEGO men running vigorously away from impending doom at the hands of a furious volcano lava eruption. Greenish colored aquarium vegetation can be placed at the base of your volcano, and will serve as an aesthetically pleasing complement to your painting job.
Now that you have essentially completed the exterior surface of your volcano project, you can now proceed to mix your 'lava'. While there are different ways of doing this, I recommend using baking soda, and red food coloring. One tablespoon of fluid soap for your dish washer can also be added to the mix, if you so prefer. You will not add vinegar into this mix, at least until the current mix has been poured into the volcano, and you are ready for your eruption reaction to occur.
You can either mix your baking soda, one tablespoon of fluid soap, and red food coloring, externally, in a cup prior to pouring, or you can include one tablespoon of baking soda into the actual tin can first. If you put your baking soda into the tin can first, you can add the vinegar and food coloring later. As soon as you do this, your eruption reaction will occur.
While it is preferred to allow your volcano project to erupt outside, you may have no other choice but to do it inside. This arrangement is dependent upon where your science fair is actually being held. Many schools do make provisions for children with projects, such as these, to be judged outside where they may easily become messy. Even still, having your volcano erupt inside won't be a very big deal if you provided enough underlying plywood to keep from staining of any underlying surfaces.
Add your vinegar and red food coloring, and stand back in amazement as your volcano erupts. Be humble, however, because your volcano masterpiece's impact may seemingly dwarf the final projects of your peers, and opponents.
While volcano projects are typically made in order to meet a school's science fair requirement, they really do make a great activity that families can do together. Because of the steps involved, they can push a child's creativity to the limits as they explore new ideas, while also grasping the fundamental underlying scientific reasons behind why volcanoes exist and behave like they do.
Tips & Warnings
- There are quite a few items required for this volcano project. It is important that you assemble all of them prior to beginning.
- While some are 'technically' edible, none of the products listed should really be eaten by your child.