Slow Motion Shatter

Concept and skills: Potential energy, kinetic energy, crystallization, videography, engineering design process, force, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, states of matter


Recommended ages: 9+ without adult, 5+ with an adult 



Ice cubes in different shapes and sizes, with different materials like salt or marbles added. The sky's the limit!


Materials for the ice-launcher (sling-shot method): Y-shaped stick with a rubber band stretched between the posts. You can make your own by attaching two pencils in a "T" shape with an appropriate adhesive and tying each end of the cut rubber band onto either side of the top of the "T".


iPhone that can record slow-motion videos (the latest iOS is best)


Materials to station the iPhone in place for consistent shots (tape, books, string, etc.)


What to do: 

1. Build the ice-launching mechanism. A sling-shot is simple, but a catapult or trebuchet could provide more consistent shots.

2. Rig the iPhone in place to get consistent shots of the target space.

3. Launch!

4. Observe how different materials, distances, or even shapes shatter differently. 


Additional information: This activity has so many variations to play around with! Freezing different water-based solutions should weaken the crystalline structure of the ice, thus making it shatter differently. Solid vs. hollow shapes will also shatter differently. Your launch method will also change the way the ice breaks. 

If an iPhone is not available, you can dye the ice with a small amount of tempera paint and launch after it melts on the counter for a few minutes. This will change the splatter pattern as well!