The Spangler Effect - Homemade Potato Launcher Season 01 Episode 44

Uploaded by TheSpanglerEffect on 14.11.2012


STEVE SPANGLER: So I know what you're thinking, how could it
be November, in Colorado, and there's still leaves on the
trees, and I'm dressed like this?
More importantly, what's up with the potato and the straw?
I'm going to tell you what.
I'm going to take this straw, and I'm going to jam it
through this potato, and you're going to like it, but
not before you watch this.
I'm Steve Spangler, and I'm all about making science fun.
For the last 20 years, I've been teaching ways to turn
ordinary science experiments into unforgettable learning
I have an amazing team who will do whatever it takes to
affect the way people think about science.
And to do that, I live by one motto, make it big, do it
right, give it class.

It's the first science
experiment that I ever learned.
It was actually in kindergarten.
I had a kindergarten teacher who had a whole thing of
potatoes sitting there, and a whole thing of straws.
And the challenge was, she said boys and girls, I want
you to take that-- because she always said boys and girls--
take this straw and jam it through the potato.
And do that a whole bunch of times, and when you're done,
bring it to me.
It'll be a porcupine.
We'll put eyes on it, and that's your
little take-home surprise.
And she didn't even have to finish those words, and
there's 14 boys trying to jam a straw through a potato.
If you can't see, it doesn't work so well.
If you try to jam a straw through the potato, it doesn't
work because it crumbles.
Unless, you use what's in the straw.
And what is inside the straw?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's called air.
So if you put your thumb over the end of the straw, you trap
the air inside.
And now, as you hold onto it like this,
you just jam through.
And what I've learned is that brown is the
potato, and pink is me.
So you have to practice where you're going to jam, but it's
pretty good.
Here, watch this.
Straw through the potato.
See that air gives the straw that rigid support, because
air takes up space.
It's perfect.
And here's the greatest thing.
Look at the little piece of potato lodged right here.
This is perfect.
You don't throw the straw away, you just jam
through one more time.
And this is exactly what you're looking for.
Piece of potato lodged here.
A piece of potato here.
If you can get your buddy to come over to the table and jam
through one more time, forgetting to put his thumb
over the end of the straw, this end pushes up, squeezes
the air, and fires this end at your head at
about 35 miles an hour.
That's awesome.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is my first potato gun.
Now, today's day and age, you can't say potato gun.
It's a potato launcher.
Our object, of course, is just to make it bigger.
You just need to have a bigger straw.
This is a good straw, this is a better straw.
And this is the straw that you need to be able to make the
larger potato launcher.
Now, thanks to Lee Merrick, who was a wonderful chemistry
teacher, who's the first person to show me this kind of
clear piece--
instead of using a piece of PVC--
so you can actually see what's going on
inside with the potato.
The ends are flared here and here.
And I'll show you how to do that here in just a second
when you make your own.
But this allows us to be able to see the pieces of potato.
So the first step is you carve out a piece of potato, and it
sits in this end, here.
Now, the object is, we've got to move this piece of potato,
to this end over here.
And to do that--
I could use a dowel--
I'm using this fancier piece of plastic.
A Lucite rod.
And I'm simply going to take this now, and push it
to the other end.

So we now have a place to receive
another piece of potato.
Back to the plunging.
You just carve out yet another piece of potato and now this,
is perfect to launch.
Now, if I go back to my high school days, they used this to
be able to teach Boyle's Law, that said this out of the text
that was written when the earth was still cooling--
Boyle's Law.
As you increase the pressure, you decrease the volume of
air, thus breaching the integrity of the potato.

Here's the deal, in modern times it kind of means this,
jam hard this way, squish the air, fire this at your friend.
And to do that, you'll need your safety glasses.
And luckily for me, I have a friend, and his name's
Higginsworth, you're going to want to run.
STEVE SPANGLER: Run, Higginsworth, run!
Light on me, Higginsworth, keep the light on me.
Now I know that's fun, and you're going to want
to make your own.
And you probably want to make one out of this clear, kind of
Plexiglas polycarbonate.
I can tell you that these are fairly expensive, so I would
suggest heading to the local hardware store and making one
out of PVC.
Look at this piece of 1/2 inch.
And take a look at this one, here.
The thin wall is the way that you want to go.
While this is cheap and inexpensive, this makes a
better potato gun-- a launcher.
All right, here's the secret.
The secret is you need to bore out the very end of the pipe.
You see it there?
That makes this narrow, so it's a tapering kind of effect
on this end, and on this end, here.
That way when you jam the potato in, it really kind of
sticks it in place and holds it.
And the secret is that drill.
The second piece that you're going to need
is the pusher, right?
That dowel rod.
And what you're going to do is you're going to find a piece
of dowel rod that's just a little bit bigger than the
tube that you're using, because you need something to
be able to hold on to.
And the second thing is, you don't want to be jamming this
in and accidentally hit your thumb.
That's why we simply just put a piece of duct tape around it
and colored it this way so that it gives my thumb
something to hold onto, and I can jam it down in place.
This is perfect.
This is the hardest part and the part of the video that
you're going to replay over and over.
Because you need to remember to carve out a piece of
potato, like you have here, and we're going to move this
piece of potato to the other end over here.
Like this.
When you hear that sound, you know you're doing it right.
So the first piece of potato is here.
This end is open to accept the second piece of potato.

And now I'm ready to go.
You've got to remember to wear those safety glasses.
When you take the dowel rod, you've got to push it into
this end, and it's ready to accept it.
So now I can hold on here, and as I start to push--
again I'm increasing the pressure, decreasing the
volume, and eventually that end will pop out.
That's a good one.
And the most useful tip of all, is to remember that
there's still a piece of potato lodged in here.
Because if you put this in your little science drawer and
you forget about it, you're going to smell the potato
launcher long before you use it again.
So that's why you find another piece of dowel that you can
use at the very end to be able to push the last piece of
potato out.
And now you're ready wash it, and it's ready to go.
You know, over the last two decades, we as a country have
spent a tremendous amount of time trying to make science
fun for kids and convince them that science is fun.
And I know that you know this, but kids already know that
science is fun.
We have to convince teachers that teaching science is fun.
So we tried a little experiment.
We thought, what if we had 160 of these?
And we had 200 pounds of potatoes, and we had 160 sets
of safety glasses.
What would it look like if you dumped it all out, divided the
group, and let them go to war?
This is what it looked like.
Take a look.


STEVE SPANGLER: Closer, closer.
Run away, Higginsworth.
Oh, man.
I almost smacked him right in the head.