If You Explode It, They Will Have Fun: The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment

Soda & Mentos Explosion

My kids are always up for any kind of scientific experiment.  If it involves mixing up some kind of concoction or tearing something apart in the name of science, they’re game.  I’m a scientist at heart myself.  My major in college was microbiology and I spent many an hour looking at blood cells under a microscope and culturing all kinds of yeast and bacteria.  Call me a dork, but my heart flutters a bit when I see a petri dish or a pipette.

While microbes are my cup of tea (not to drink, of course), explosions are my kids favorite scientific endeavor.  Mostly it’s just them dreaming about exploding things, as their mother is just about as crazy about tidiness as she is about science.  Explosions in the house, as educational as they might be, don’t sound so fun to clean up.

We received Ken Denmead’s third book in the Geek Dad series, The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, to review.  It didn’t take long for Elena to bookmark about every other experiment to try at home.  While we want to get to as many of them as we can, it was “Exploring Fluid Dynamics” that caught my eye right away.  Perhaps you know this experiment by another name: the Diet Coke and Mentos trick.

It had candy, it had explosions, it had mess that could be easily hosed away. Sold, sold, sold.

The book is awesome at giving you both detailed instructions and yet giving kids lots of chances to form a hypothesis of their own and add on to the basic experiments.  In this case, the author encourages kids to think about what factors go into making the biggest, best explosion.  Is it the kind of soda?  Is it the size and shape of the bottle?  Is it the kind of candy?

Since we were doing this mostly for our own entertainment and not for an actual project, we kept our experiment small.  At the store I let the kids pick 4 kinds of soda: classic diet, regular soda, and orange soda.  We also tried it using an already opened, small bottle of clear soda.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

The book gives very detailed instructions on making a candy-delivering device out of PVC pipe.  This is to give you a way to drop the candy in and give yourself time to run away.  We came up with our own simple delivery system using rolled-up cardstock with a slit cut in it.  We slid another piece of card stock in the slit to hold the candy in place until we were ready.  It worked like a charm.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

For less than $4 and relatively little work, we had an awesome afternoon of explosions.  Even I, the jaded scientist, was impressed.  We had an interesting conversation about how soda is made and what causes the reaction and all that educational stuff, but most importantly?  We had a lot of fun.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

This book is definitely geared toward elementary-age kids and older.  Whether you have a science fair coming up in which your budding scientist could use a little inspiration to try something more creative than a potato clock, you’re a homeschooling family looking for something different to add to your science curriculum, or you just want to have some geeky, science-themed fun, you’re sure to find something really cool in this book.