Water Bottle STEM

Have you noticed that middle school students get obsessed with the weirdest things?? This year at my school it is the water bottle flipping phenomenon.  Trying to flip a water bottle and get it to land without falling over.  They do it CONSTANTLY.  They never seem to choose quiet activities to obsess over.  The sound of those water bottles crinkling and landing is one of the most annoying sounds ever.


We have one more week of school until the winter break – for me it is actually just 3 more days.  I just finished a unit and I didn’t want to start something new right before the break so I decided to use the time to reinforce some of the science practices.  I haven’t had the students  design their own investigation yet and thought this would be a good time.  So I decided to create a lab based on the water bottle flip.  My students were going to determine the volume of water to add to the water bottle so it has the highest flipping success rate.  The students worked to design and test their experiment.  They were given some guidelines and then they were free to test.  It was a lot of fun.  The kids loved it!!   After performing the tests, the students used math to analyze their data – converting from fractions to decimals and then to percents, graphing their data, and sharing their data. Later in the week they are going to plan an independent investigation looking at additional variables that might affect water bottle flipping like the size of the bottle, the type of water bottle, the brand of the water bottle, etc.

It was super easy to get all the materials.  I went through the recycle bins around campus and got lots of water bottles and I had rulers and beakers.  The bottles got pretty beat up after each class.  They seemed thinner than I remembered, but that is probably good since they are using less plastic, but the denting around the bottom may have affected our results. I definitely needed new bottles for each class.   I want to look into using gatorade bottles since they are much sturdier, but I am not sure how they flip.  I spent about a half an hour with my own kids sitting on the floor flipping water bottles to practice before the lab.  If you haven’t ever tried it, it is pretty addictive and it feels awesome when one lands.