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STEM Activity: How to Build a Space Volcano

STEM Activities

Celebrate National Space Day with an out-of-this-world activity inspired by the all-new Explore program at Camp Invention®. This summer’s program includes the SpacecationTM experience, where children find out what it’s like to travel through outer space and explore its possibilities for future adventures.

The Spacecation itinerary includes a stop at Europa, one of Jupiter’s 79 moons. It is nicknamed the “Ice Moon” because it’s covered in ice — and where there’s ice, there must be water! Imagery captured by the Hubble Telescope reveals evidence for the possible existence of an ice volcano, or cryovolcano, erupting from Europa’s surface.

Here’s how to make a frozen volcano and explore space, chemistry and mathematics in one awesome activity.


Materials Needed

  • Baking soda
  • Blue food coloring (optional)
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoon
  • Pan (with sides) or plastic container
  • Pipette (optional)
  • Small paper cups or ice pop molds without the stick
  • Towels or rags
  • Vinegar
  • Water 


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Fill a small cup with a 2:1 ratio of baking soda to water. To start, place 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a small paper cup. Then add 1 tablespoon of water. a. Add blue food coloring for an extra icy-cool twist!
  2. Stir the mixture and place it in the freezer until the mixture forms solid ice.
  3. Peel the paper cup from the ice. a. If using ice pop molds, allow them to sit out for a few minutes to loosen the sides. b. Wrap your hands around the container to add more heat, if needed.
  4. Set the ice in a pan or container with sides.
  5. Combine the vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio, mixing 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water. a. Blue food coloring can be added here too!
  6.  Pour the vinegar mixture over the ice to make an ice volcano. Keep a rag or towel nearby in case the ice volcano overflows.
  7. Make your ice volcano disappear by adding more of the vinegar and water mixture.
  8. Create more ice volcanoes using different measurements at the same ratio. See what kind of fun fizzes up!


What Are We Discovering?

There are a few great interactions happening in this activity. The process of making an ice volcano shows the changes in the phases of matter. The baking soda (solid) dissolves in water (liquid), which is then frozen (solid). The bubbles created from the chemical reaction release carbon dioxide or CO2 (gas). There is a chemical reaction when the vinegar (acid) meets the baking soda ice volcano (solid) and then creates bubbles (CO2). The ice volcano reaction can be made fizzier by changing the ratios of baking soda to water and water to vinegar.

The existence of ice volcanoes in space is still unknown, but with innovative technologies, we continue to explore and make new discoveries. These technologies include National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee George Carruthers’ invention of a type of ultraviolet camera that showed new images of space, and NIHF Inductee Yvonne Brill’s inventions in rocket propulsion. Her thruster design system needed less fuel and could carry more tools, advancing our ability to explore space.


Looking for Even More STEM Fun?

Check Out Camp Invention! If your child enjoys STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities, they will love Camp Invention, NIHF’s nationwide K-6 STEM summer camp. To learn more about this year’s brand-new program and to reserve your spot today, we invite you to visit our website.

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