Science Project:

Hero's Engine: Example of Newton's Third Law

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To explore this idea more fully, you can easily construct your very own device called an aeolipile (sometimes referred to as Hero’s Engine or a Hero engine). Created by an engineer named Hero of Alexandria about 2000 years ago, this invention was able to show one way in which an action can lead to an equal and opposite reaction: an example of Newton's third law.

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Materials

  • Plastic cup
  • 2 plastic bendable straws
  • String
  • Craft knife
  • Water and sink
  • Modeling clay

Procedure

  1. Take plastic cup and have an adult help you poke two small holes near the top rim on opposite sides from one another.
  2. Thread string through the holes and tie a knot so that the cup can be suspended from the string.
  3. Have an adult make two slightly larger holes near the bottom of the cup as seen in the picture below (make sure these holes are just large enough for the straws to fit through)
  4. Cut each straw about 1.5 inches below its bendable portion.
  5. Slide the straws into the holes. Make sure that they both point in a clockwise direction.
  6. Use your modeling clay to seal the space between the cup and the straw so that no water leaks out when you fill the cup.
  7. Hold the finished Hero engine away from your body. Pour water into the cup and observe.

Results

Gravity draws the water downward and out through each straw. This causes the engine to spin in a clockwise direction.

Hero's Engine Results

Why?

The water being forced by gravity to leave the cup in a clockwise direction pushes back on the cup in a counterclockwise direction, causing the cup to turn. This is the same principle that enables rockets to work—gas that’s forced out of the nozzle pushes back on the rocket, propelling it forward!

Author: Justine Rembac
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