What could be more fun than Confetti Cannons? Having a fantastic book tie in with a great STEM activity! In this case Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, by Katey Howes. This amazingly fun STEM Challenge has two levels of difficulty. A simple version that can be built quickly by kids of all ages and abilities (perfect for groups or a classroom), and a STEM Challenge version that uses engineering, science and imagination to create a confetti cannon machine that kids will want to power up over and over again. This is an incredible Celebration STEM Challenge.
Build a Confetti Cannon STEM Project
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Confetti Cannon STEM Challenge
Somewhere along the line, my children’s favorite part of any celebrations became confetti. They wanted it more and more. Why couldn’t we have it at birthday parties? Band concerts? Graduations? Gender reveals? Valentine’s Day? St. Patrick’s Day? New Years Eve? Rainy Tuesday mornings? No matter what special events you are attending, confetti cannons are the perfect addition for taking your event to the next level.
Yes it might cause a bit of mess, but sometimes the best learning is a little messy. And kids can practice their clean up skills too!
I discovered that making confetti and confetti cannons allows kids to practice lots of developmentally appropriate skills. Kids build scissor skills while making their own confetti by cutting up used paper, tissue paper, holiday cards, foil, candy wrappers, straws, etc. Or try using a hole punch to make confetti and strengthen little hands. Using the hole punch is always popular with the kids!
Once they’ve thrown it everywhere, kids can practice using a broom or whisk broom and dust pan to sweep it up and reuse it. Confetti play can incorporate identifying colors, counting backwards, and taking turns.
Today, we’re taking confetti play to a whole new level and exploring STEM concepts with two different Confetti Launcher projects. This will allow kids to build their STEM skills including engineering, physics and math.
For those that do not want confetti everywhere, replace the confetti with bird seed or flower seeds and spread the love outdoors! You can find the perfect Bird Seed Cannon project here that is a fun twist on our confetti cannon.
Confetti Cannon Science
Lead off this project by talking about elasticity, potential energy and kinetic energy.
A great way to explain it to your kids is this way: Think about a compressed spring or a stretched rubber band. It has ELASTICITY. Deforming the material requires energy from the user – and puts it in a state where it has high POTENTIAL ENERGY. It wants to return to its standard shape. When it does so, with a spring or a snap, that’s KINETIC (movement) energy in action. Can your kids think of machines and tools that use springs, bands, or other elastic properties to get work done?
DIY Handheld Confetti Cannons
This is how to make a handheld confetti cannon, also known as confetti poppers.
Cardboard tube (the tube from a toilet paper roll works perfectly)
Confetti (remember kids can make their own from paper in the recycle bin!)
Step 1: Tie a knot in your balloon.
Step 2: Cut about 1/3 off the top of the balloon. Use scissors and don’t worry about being exact.
Step 3: Put the balloon on the cardboard tube, kind of like putting on a shower cap. Center the knot as well as you can.
Step 4: Tape the balloon in place. If you like, wrap tape around the remainder of the tube to reinforce it. Get creative and use different color tapes to create cool patterns and make the confetti cannon look amazing!
Step 5: Put confetti in the tube.
Time to launch! Hold the tube with one hand. Pull the knot back with the other hand. Let go of the knot and watch it fly!
Kids can experiment with the angle they hold the tube, how far they pull back, and other factors to get their best launch. Or brainstorm practical uses for a launcher like this – could you use it to distribute wildflower seeds in the garden? Feed the birds? Decorate cupcakes? Throw rice at a wedding?
AIR POWERED CONFETTI CANNON MACHINE
Even though we can’t see the air, we can see the effect it has on objects around it. Think about how air moves objects like leaves, windmills, weathervanes, and so much more. Can your kids think of machines and tools that use moving air to get work done?
This time we are making a compressed air style confetti cannon. This project is perfect for your older kids who like more power and more challenge.
Large syringe and tubing (100 mL to 300mL are a great size range)
Construction paper cut to 3.5” x 3.5” square
Step 1: Cut your construction paper to 3.5″ square. Fold the square paper on a diagonal to make a triangle.
Step 2: Curve the triangle into a funnel shape, leaving an opening large enough for your tubing at the narrow end. Tape the edge of the paper to hold the shape.
Step 3: Insert the end of the tubing into the funnel and tape it into place. Make sure it is airtight.
Step 4: Pull back the plunger in the syringe. Attach the tubing to the syringe. Make sure you don’t have a twist or any kinks in the tubing.
Step 5: Put confetti in the funnel. Hold the funnel or tape it to the surface so it stays upright.
Time for launch! Depress the plunger and watch the confetti fly!
Kids can experiment with the syringe – how much air do they use? How fast should they depress the plunger? They can try different gauge tubing, different sizes of syringes, and different types of confetti materials, too. You can also supply them with other household materials – like a turkey baster, plastic straws, small plastic bottles – anything you can squeeze – and see what type of air-powered tools they can make.
Confetti Cannon Engineering STEM Challenge
Another great creative challenge to combine with this launcher is to build a support structure. Rather than holding the funnel upright, can your kids build an armature to hold it? We used LEGO bricks to make ours – but you could use popsicle sticks, plastic straws, or any building toy – kids could even make a support structure with a 3D pen or printer. Get creative and let those imaginations go crazy! This support base concept is very similar to what we built with our Bottle Rockets.
Seed Bombs with Launchers
Take this activity and change it up a bit into a seed bomb launcher. You can make your own seed bombs with either bird seeds or wildflower seeds, then build a simple launcher to make them fly!
Build a Catapult Cannon
If you want to tackle a project with some serious launch power, trying making a catapult cannon. You can fill it with streamers and send them flying!
Looking for more physics fun? Try one of our innovative catapult projects to launch your confetti!
Now get building and ready to launch!
I hope you and your kids or students enjoy building these fun confetti launchers and exploring the design and science behind them. If you also enjoy reading about inventive kids, check out the picture book, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe. It teaches that you don’t have to do things “the way they’ve always been done.” Magnolia Mudd wants kids to know they have the ingenuity and creativity to invent their own solution to any problem.