STEM Lab: Safe Non-Fire Fireworks for 4th of July!

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Milk color explosions and other science projects perfect for Independence Day

By Kyrie Collins, Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock-Lone Tree Publisher July 1, 2021

If you've got little ones, live in an area with fire restrictions, or just don't want to deal with fireworks this year, here are four other ideas that are full of "explosive" fun... I bet the grownups have as much fun as the kids do!

My absolute favorite is the Milk Color Explosions posted by Albuquerque's Quelab. Quelab is a collaborative community that promotes creativity, invention, and collaboration at the intersections of science, culture, art, and technology (see hackerspace). The recipe is super simple but the results are incredible!

What You Need:

  • A plate or wide, flat, shallow bowl (plastic Solo plates work great)
  • Whole milk (yes, you need whole... the fat is a key element)
  • Food coloring
  • Dawn dish detergent (we tried other brands but the result was not as spectacular)

What You Do:

  1. Pour some milk into the plate.
  2. Drop in the food coloring anyway and anywhere you want it (teeny drops of color on top of each other work better than a big squeeze).
  3. Add a tiny drop of dish detergent on top of the food coloring.
  4. Be amazed!

Watch this video for more detailed instructions and an explanation of the science involved, and to see what will happen (don't let your kids watch it now... let them see it in real life instead).

I contacted the folks at Quelab via email to ask their permission to share this experiment. Not only did they cheerfully agree that we could share this with all of you, they even offered more suggestions for Non-Fire Fireworks Fun!

Mentos™ and Cola:

Drop 4-5 original white Mentos mints into a 2-liter bottle of soda. We used diet because we thought it would be less sticky and regular might attract ants or bees. The brand doesn't seem to matter, but you can experiment with a couple of different kinds of soda to see which one goes highest.

Vinegar and Baking Soda Rocket:

Make a rocket using a water bottle, pencils, vinegar, and baking soda.

Make a Paper "Popper" (noisemaker):

All you need is a piece of paper and a quick arm.