5th Science Fair Experiment : Session 1 “Confetti Explosion”

5th class are very excited about our upcoming Science Fair at the end of the month!

In today’s lesson Ms Phelan introduced our engineering problem, it’s context and the engineering process we need to investigate for our Science Fair Entry.

This is our story:

“We have just celebrated a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day party in our classroom. Unfortunately lots of confetti was used and the room is a mess!

James is on holidays and has locked all the cleaning equipment in his press. There is no dust pan or brush in the classroom and cleaning up looks like it will take a long time.

However, as we searched the room for a brush, we found some motors, electrical wires, batteries and switches in one of the cupboards. We also have found lots of empty plastic bottles from the party!

One of the children suggested using a hairdryer to blow the confetti away, however this would only result in more mess!

Can we become electrical engineers to design, make and test a suitable cleaning device that will suck up all of the confetti before the principal sees the mess!!!!!”

And so our discussions began!

The hairdryer clue got us thinking. What we need is a “hairdryer in reverse” said one boy. We don’t want to blow the confetti about – we want to suck it up. That’s a vacuum cleaner! We need to make a vacuum cleaner!

So our first step was to draw how we thought a vacuum cleaner works.

Next, we came together as a class to discuss our drawings and determine what we thought were the main components of a vacuum cleaner. Although we all used different names for some parts, we came up with similar lists. These are the components we came up with.

  1. A mouth/ sucker/ nozzle/ head where the dust is collected.
  2. A bag/bin/container to hold the dust.
  3. A fan to suck up the dust
  4. A motor to run the fan
  5. A power source – a plug and socket or a battery
  6. A shell / casing to hold all the bits of the vacuum cleaner together.

Next Ms. Phelan used her own vacuum cleaner to show us what the main components of a vacuum cleaner are actually called by engineers. We were correct in our findings – engineers use these words:

  1. Intake Port (head)
  2. Dust Bin/Bag
  3. Motor & Fan
  4. Exhaust Port (we hadn’t thought of this)
  5. Power Source
  6. Container (shell)

Now that we had a list of a vacuum cleaner components we could decide what materials we would need to collect to try to make our vacuum cleaner.

Ms. Phelan is going to get us motors. For the casing, we need to collect some plastic bottles. For the bag to collect the dust, we need a fabric or net, something that will allow the air to pass through but not the dirt. For the fan, we decided to see if we could make a fan with different materials, like paper and card. And finally for a power source Ms. Phelan was getting us batteries.

NB ** Safety Notice ** At this point we talked about the difference between mains electricity (approx 230V) and a AA battery electricity source (approx 3.5V). We should never play or experiment with mains electricity which is very dangerous.

We are going to gather our materials together and start designing and making our vacuum cleaner in the next session.

Post Author: Linda Phelan