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Carnival STEM (Awesome Summer Science Experiments)

Check in each week at Science Buddies this summer for our Awesome Summer Science Experiments series! Each week, we'll highlight a few activities for awesome science and engineering kids can do at home. We've got a whole summer of fun STEM themes lined up for kids of all ages — for free. This week: big-top science with awesome summer science experiments that tap into the spirit of the local fair, amusement park, or carnival.

Pyramid of bottles with a ball being thrown at it - Carnival STEM Week 9 of Awesome Summer Science with Science Buddies

Awesome Carnival STEM

Ready for backyard, amusement park fun with science? Step right up! From carnival games to marble roller coasters, funhouse mirrors, and bottle flipping, this week's Carnival STEM experiments bring the excitement home. Add in popcorn, homemade tickets, and some prizes scavenged from around the house for a fun summer carnival experience!

The activities in Week 9 of our Awesome Summer Science Experiments series feature STEM experiments that focus on the physics of balancing, mirrors and reflection, trajectory and momentum, centripetal force, and potential and kinetic energy.

Awesome Summer Science Experiments Week 9: Experiment | Watch | Do More | Ask | Explore | Read


Mirror Distortion

Have you ever looked in a mirror that made you look taller or shorter or bigger or smaller than you are? These mirrors can be fascinating, but what's the secret? Make your own funhouse mirror and explore the wacky world of curved mirrors. What happens when you look at something in a curved mirror compared to a flat one? What's the difference between concave and convex mirrors?

A Balancing Act

Have you ever seen a clown balancing a teetering tower of objects on a pole? Explore how balancing works with marshmallows and wooden sticks. What's the craziest configuration of sticks and marshmallows you can balance?

Knock Over the Bottles

Throwing balls at a stack of bottles is a classic carnival game! Explore the science behind knocking over the bottles by setting up your own backyard game. What does the center of mass have to do with how easy or hard it is to win?

Make a Centripetal Force Generator

Centripetal force helps keep you in your seat on amusement park rides that swing you in a circle. Explore the push and pull of centripetal force with a homemade centripetal force generator, colored gelatin, and a marble. What happens to the marble when the swinging begins?

Loop-the-loop with a Marble Roller Coaster

Roller coaster loops are part of the thrill of the ride, but it takes science to make a roller coaster loop work! Build your own marble roller coaster from foam tubing and see if you can add a loop and still have the marble make it from start to finish. How high will your coaster need to start for a marble to make it around the loop? Can you add a second loop?

Bottle Flipping

Have you tried tossing a bottle to see if you can make it land standing up? It's exciting when it works, but what's the secret? Explore bottle flipping to find out if how much water is inside makes a difference. Can you find the just-right amount for your bottle flipping technique?

WATCH: Videos

DO MORE: Raspberry Pi Projects

Carnival-style game made from a wire and coded so that it buzzes if you touch the wire

How steady are your hands? With a Raspberry Pi, kids can create and code their own interactive buzzer game and challenge friends and family to see who can complete the game fastest without triggering the buzzer! The Construct a Carnival Buzzer Game with a Raspberry Pi project is one of 8 guided activities kids can do with Raspberry Pi. After finishing the progressive learning series of activities, kids can continue coding and creating interactive projects with Raspberry Pi using the drag-and-drop Scratch interface or move on to exploring Python.

Learn more about Science Buddies Kits and see our 12 Science Kits for Summer Science Experiments and Discovery recommendations.

ASK: Questions

Use these questions to prompt conversation and reflection about the science behind this week's Awesome Summer Science Experiments activities:

  • What kinds of science jobs are involved in designing and building things like roller coasters or other amusement park rides?
  • How can physics help explain how different carnival games work?
  • What forces play a role in how a swinging amusement park ride works?
  • What types of energy can you observe in a roller coaster's path from start to finish?


After trying this week's summer science experiments, kids can learn more about related science and engineering careers, like:

READ: Books

Pair picture and story books like these with this week's Awesome Summer Science Experiments explorations.

When Amelia Earhart Built a Roller Coaster cover How to Code a Rollercoaster cover Mr. Ferris and His Wheel cover Roller Coaster cover

For more suggestions for science-themed summer reading, see our Summer Reading List. Also, don't miss this roundup of creative STEM activities for storytelling and imaginative play.

Bookmark Awesome Summer Science Experiments Week 9: Carnival STEM

Curved mirror reflections, foam roller coaster with a loop, a bottle being tossed, a pyramid of bottles filled with water for a carnival game Carnival Science Week 9 - part of Awesome Summer Science Experiments series

10 Weeks of Awesome Summer Science Experiments

Follow the full summer series on the Awesome Summer Science Experiments page!

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