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Bottle Power

Objective: Can I say which bottle worked best at launching a cone and why?


(Mums & Dads:  All: say which cone traveled furthest

Most: be able to say HOW they know which went furthest (which bottle, distances recorded ...)

Some: systematic in testing – may record measurements independently, or note them accuracy; explain WHY the distances vary)


First collect together some plastic bottles, before they go into the recycling. Next predict which bottle will send a cone the furthest. After that make a paper cone (draw round a plate or use the template). Then decorate your cone using felts or pencils - you can decorate it as a rocket, astronaut, the teddy from 'Whatever Next', an alien, or even as you!  Once you've made the cone, put it over the end of a plastic milk bottle to ‘fire’ it across the room.  Put a marker on the ground to show where it landed. Repeat with other bottles from the same launch pad (chair / table top).

Would firing it outside be a fair test?  Why not? What are the 'variables'?


(Mums & Dads - when we've done this before we found that laying the bottle on its side (with a book underneath, to create a slight upward angle) makes it easier to measure the distance the cone flies, but it can be tricky to get the cone to sit on the neck of the bottle to begin with - make quite a skinny cone, not too wide.  You may need to experiment to find the best shape)


If you have enough bottles, or they are not too damaged (put a wooden spoon handle inside to take out the dents) you can repeat the experiment with extras added to the cone e.g. fins, fuel tanks (triangles & small rolls of paper), flames etc.  See if this makes a difference.  Use your knowledge from the straw rockets experiment to guide you.


Ask & answer questions: What can you say about your results? Why do you think that? What was the shortest distance?  What was the longest distance? Can you compare them - what was the difference?  Can you order the bottles by how far they shot the cone? Why do you think this? Why did they send them different distances? What else do you want to find out, now you've finished the experiment?

(Some children will have the misconception that the biggest (tallest) bottle should make the cone go furthest - the capacity of a bottle is not just it's height. The material thickness of the bottles may also be a variable. 

A follow up activity could be a Maths one, comparing the capacity of different containers - use water (in the bath), lentils, lego pieces etc.)

Use these pictures to help you record your prediction, results and conclusion in your books, or print off the pdf.