Making a film canister rocket is a thrilling science experiment to teach children about pressure, states of matter, and chemical reactions. There is nothing better than the anticipation of waiting for a film canister rocket to take off at any moment! This time we launched our film canister rockets using dry ice, which added an extra element of excitement. Anything to get the kids excited about science, right?!
*Safety Alert* Dry ice is relatively safe, but it can be dangerous if handled incorrectly. Please see our dry ice safety FAQs for more information about safety, storage, and handling.
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To prepare our film canister rocket we gathered the following supplies:
- Dry ice
- Plastic 35mm film canisters
- Food coloring
- White poster board
We headed outside since launching a dry ice film canister rocket can be very messy. For several more outdoor STEM activities for kids be sure to scroll down to the end of this post!
We placed 1-2 drops of food coloring into each film canister and then filled each one about halfway with water. I decided it would be fun to make a rainbow so we mixed up colorful film canisters in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
We wanted to see the colorful splatter pattern after each launch so we placed the film canisters in a line on top of a white poster board. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it made for some brilliant art at the end!
Once my husband had on his safety glasses and thick gloves to handle the dry ice, we were ready for launch time!
A Dry Ice Film Canister Rocket Rainbow
The kids and I stood a safe distance back while my husband handled the dry ice and launched the rockets. He used a hammer to break off small pieces from the bigger block of dry ice.
My husband removed the lids from each of the film canisters and dropped in a small piece of dry ice into each one. Watching the line of colorful water bubble and fume was almost as fun as launching the rockets!
One by one, he popped the lid of the film canister back onto the container, quickly turned it upside down, and stood back. Within just a few seconds: POP! The film canister rocket launched nearly 15 feet into the air! Each film canister rocket launch was met with excited cheers, lots of jumping up and down, and squeals of delight.
When we were done launching rockets we admired the colorful splatter art that the film canister rockets made on the white poster board. We will definitely be doing this science experiment again!
How Does it Launch?
Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide that is constantly turning directly into carbon dioxide gas. This process is called sublimation. When dry ice is trapped in a container, such as a film canister, the pressure rises quickly because it produces more and more carbon dioxide gas. Pretty soon the pressure is so high that the lid of the container flies right off! This is why it is so important to keep dry ice in a container that can release the pressure easily without exploding.