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6 Rubber Band Experiments for Science Class!

Making learning fun is sometimes half the battle! With the right activities, educators can ensure learning about science and engineering involves hands-on fun for students of all ages. Build in some stretchy science fun with STEM experiments that use rubber bands!

Slingshot device launching a paper airplane for Rubber Band STEM - Educator's Corner Science Activities with Science Buddies

Stretchy STEM Science!

Rubber bands are fun to stretch. What happens when you let them go? They might fly! Can you use the stretchiness of a rubber band to send other things flying or create sound waves? Can you learn about energy from rubber bands? Yes!

Students can learn a lot about potential and kinetic energy—and the law of conservation of energy—from simple rubber bands. In this week's Educator's Corner, we've highlighted an assortment of exciting maker-inspired builds and experiments that use rubber bands. From launchers and a rubber band-powered car to noisemaking fun with a rubber band guitar or craft stick harmonica, these are STEM-based activities your students will love.

Let's hear it for stretchy rubber band science!

Our Educator's Corner series features high-interest STEM activities that work well with students in both formal and informal settings—in the classroom or at home. These activities are grouped in fun themes that make it easy for educators to pick and choose just-right activities for special days or special units. Each collection is hand-curated for fun, ease-of-use, simple materials, accessibility, and interest factor. To help educators bundle activities with additional classroom or out-of-class activities and reflection, we've included discussion questions, career connections. We've also included book suggestions to help educators tie science and engineering to English Language Arts.
Rubber Band STEM: Experiment | Watch Videos | Ask Questions | Dig Deeper | Choice Board | Explore Careers | Read Books

EXPERIMENT: STEM Experiments with Rubber Bands

Cotton Ball Launchers

With cardboard tubes, rubber bands, and pencils, students can make simple cotton ball launchers. Turn this activity into a game (or math practice) by setting up target baskets with varying point levels. Can they master their launch skills and score big? (Tip! As an alternative to cotton balls, you might try loosely packed aluminum foil balls, mini wiffle balls, or ping pong balls (if they fit the tube). If you switch from cotton balls, make sure you test outside in an open area until you know how far the balls will fly.)
The science: The launcher stores elastic potential energy that is converted to kinetic energy that propels the cotton ball when the rubber band is released.

Rubber Band Guitars

With rubber bands and craft materials, students can make a guitar or harmonica. As students experiment with these DIY instruments, they'll be learning about and creating sound waves! (Customize it! When this family did the rubber band guitar activity, they added a neck to the guitar for true rocker vibe.) For lesson plan versions, see Sound and Vibrations 1: Rubber Band Guitar (elementary school) and Perfect Pitches with a Rubber Band Guitar (middle school). For additional sound science lessons, see 18 Lessons to Teach the Science of Sound.

The science: Both the guitar and the harmonica make sound because when the rubber bands vibrate, their potential energy is converted to sound waves (sound energy).

Recycled Bottle Submarine

Make a submarine from a recycled soda bottle and experiment to see if the submarine works better with or without fins. What's the role of the rubber band? Wind up the propeller and let it go to find out! This hands-on STEM activity requires a contained body of water, like a small outdoor pool.
The science: When the propeller is wound, it stores elastic potential energy that is converted to kinetic energy when released.

Paper Airplane Launcher

With a rubber band and a pencil, students can send paper airplanes flying. After experimenting with the pencil, challenge students to build a standalone launching device using recycled materials, toy building bricks, or other craft supplies. (Uplevel it! Build launchers in different styles or from different materials and see how they compare in terms of stability, ease-of-use, or effectiveness!) For a lesson plan version, see Design a Paper Airplane Launcher (middle school).

The science: The stretched rubber band stores potential energy that will be converted to kinetic energy to propel the plane forward when the rubber band is released. Designing a device that can stand up to repeated use will take trial and error, troubleshooting, and problem solving!

Mini Popsicle Stick Catapult

These small catapults are fun to build and fun to use! (Uplevel it! To turn this activity into a game, set up containers in different sizes and at different distances as targets. Assign point values and challenge students to see how many points they can rack up.) Note: This activity works for small hands and younger kids as well as older kids! Be inspired by this second-grade student building her popsicle stick catapult.

The science: When the launching stick is pushed down, it has potential energy, just as a rubber band does when it is stretched. When the stick is released, the energy is converted to kinetic energy which is transferred to the object being launched.

Build a Rubber Band Car

This DIY car is built from craft materials, office supplies, and an axle constructed from straws and rubber bands.

The science: When the axle is wound, potential energy is stored. When the axle is released, the energy is converted to kinetic energy that propels the car forward.

WATCH: Videos

Popsicle Stick Catapult
Video: Paper Airplane Launcher
Cotton Ball Launcher - Fun STEM Activity
Build a Submarine -STEM activity

ASK: Questions

Use these questions with students to prompt conversation and reflection about the science behind these Rubber Band STEM activities:

  • Does an unstretched rubber band have energy?
  • What type of energy are you creating when you stretch a rubber band?
  • What happens when you release a stretched rubber band in terms of its energy?
  • What are other examples of potential energy?
  • What is the law of conservation of energy?

DIG DEEPER: More Lessons and Activities

For additional lessons and activities related to potential energy, elastic energy, and types of energy, see these curated Teaching Science Units collections:

CHOICE BOARD: Differentiated Learning

Choice boards offer a flexible learning tool educators can use to supplement classroom instruction. You might try a choice board as part of weekly homework, for extra credit, or for asynchronous and remote learning.

Rubber Band STEM Choice Board

Our Rubber Band STEM Choice Board is a fun way to encourage students to dig a little deeper. With engaging tasks that encourage creative responses, synthesis of important concepts, hands-on building, and more, there is something here for everyone! (Tip: When presenting this choice board to students, you may want to provide links to referenced videos and activities they may need to watch or read through to fulfill the tasks.)

Note: You will need to be logged in to download this free PDF.


After trying Rubber Band STEM experiments, students may be inspired to learn more about these science and engineering careers:

READ: Books

Pair picture and story books like these with Rubber Band STEM explorations.

Papa's Mechanical Fish cover Girl with a mind for math cover What to Do with a Box cover
Toy and Game projects cover Most Magnificent Thing cover Ada Twist cover

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