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Iron Man: Behind the Science

Iron Man 3 - Tony Stark
Image: downloadable wallpaper from Marvel
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Iron Man 3 Science -- What will you discover?
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Not only does Tony Stark, a.k.a. the Iron Man, build "neat stuff," he turns science, technology, engineering, and math on its ear in the science fiction series starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, and Ben Kingsley. With Marvel's Iron Man 3 scheduled for release in theaters on May 3, 2013, students can go behind the scenes with hands-on science that parallels the cutting-edge science at the heart of the blockbuster series. Whether you like Iron Man because you are a tinkerer, engineer, robot builder, budding quantum physicist, or programmer, science is at hand. Metallurgy, physics, radioactivity, robotics, weaponry, computer science, encryption technologies, energy sources, radioisotopes... it's all there—and Science Buddies can hook you up with great hands-on projects!

Science Exploration

These Project Ideas encourage students to explore concepts and challenges related to science that appears in Iron Man:

Iron Man Robotics

Iron Man Physics

  • Build a Gauss Rifle!: a ball bearing won't put a dent in Iron Man's armor, but setting a Gauss rifle in motion lets you investigate magnetic acceleration stages and initial velocity.
  • Rainbow Fire: there are plenty of pyrotechnics in Iron Man 2, and the defeated drones self-destruct with a bang. Explore your own explosive displays by investigating what happens when different chemical compounds are burned.
  • Particles in the Mist: See Radioactive Particles Decay with Your Own Cloud Chamber!: Stark had to craft his own particle accelerator to create his palladium replacement element, but to see atomic particles flying all around you, all you need to do is build your own cloud chamber.
  • Build Your Own Radon Detector: when your suit involves a radioactive core, keeping tabs on radiation levels is critical. You may not be wearing your own radioactive elements, but with a simple ionization chamber, you can detect low levels of radiation around you.

Iron Man Propulsion

  • Rocketology: Baking Soda + Vinegar = Lift Off!: Iron Man's first makeshift propulsion system crash-landed him in a desert. Baking soda and vinegar might not serve you any better, but combined in a compressed space, they offer high-flying chemical reaction propulsion. Rig one of these film canisters to an action figure and see where it lands!
  • Three, Two, One...Blast Off! Learn to Design an Ion Engine.: whether you need to leave the atmosphere or not, fuel and propulsion know-how is a must.
  • Solid Motor Rocket Propulsion: explore rocket science to better understand the logistics of Iron Man's feet repulsors and arm-mounted stabilizers.
  • Rocket Aerodynamics: Iron Man's flight system went through a serious overhaul after his crash landing. Explore the impact of design modifications on rocket-powered flight performance.

Iron Man Energy

Iron Man Magnets and Electro-magnetism

Iron Man Computer Science

  • Encryption *: the enemy quickly bypasses computer security systems during an early meeting with Hammer. Write your own JavaScript program to explore simple encryption strategies.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Teaching the Computer to Play Tic-Tac-Toe: Tony's house and lab are monitored and assisted by a computer AI named Jarvis. Teaching your computer to play a simple game and learn might be the first step in programming your own AI assistant!
  • Program to Check a Sudoku Solution: several task-oriented robots help Stark in his home-based lab in the first movie. Experiment with writing a program that automates the validation and analysis of a set of data or user input.

Iron Man Materials


Note: Iron Man 3 is rated PG-13. Parents can learn more about suggested viewing at Common Sense Media.

Need to catch up or refresh your Iron Man memory? See Iron Man and Iron Man 2 .

1,000,000 views makes a difference! View exclusive Iron Man 3  video trailer to support Science Buddies.

We will be linking to exclusive Iron Man 3 video footage, courtesty of Verizon FiOS, from our Facebook page on Monday, April 29. "Like" us at Facebook so that you catch the announcement when the video goes live. Every view of the video helps us better support K-12 science literacy!

Resources and How-to Guides for Iron Man Projects and Experiments

The following guides can help as you branch out and tackle your own Iron Man projects: