Check out this fun ‘Bubble Construction Design Challenge’ activity from Family Science & Engineering!

We have officially entered summer! Yippee! The summer solstice arrived officially at 8:31 PM (PT) on Sunday, June 20. (Check out some fun facts and folklore about the summer solstice.) Time for some fun, summer-related science & engineering activities!

When I think about summer, one of the first fun activities that comes to mind are bubbles! Try out the following design challenge adapted from our book, Family Science. This activity involves some prep, but it is so worth it — give it try!

You’ll need:

  • Scissors
  • Large plastic trash bag
  • Paper towels or several terry towels
  • Water
  • Measuring spoons
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Empty gallon milk jug (or similarly sized container)
  • Ruler
  • Corrugated cardboard box
  • Plastic bowl or tray
  • Copy of “Bubble Construction Chart
  • Tool construction supplies (string, chenille stems, foil, stiff paper, cardboard, recycled containers, straws, paper/plastic cups, etc.)
  • Pencil
  • Paper
Here’s what you do:
Prepare the Construction Site

  • Make a large table cover by cutting the side seams of a trash bag. Open it flat. Wipe the table with a damp paper towel, and then spread the cover over the damp area.
  • Mix a bubble solution by combining 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap with 1 cup of water. To make a larger amount, pour 2/3 cup of liquid dish soap into an empty gallon milk jug, and then fill with water. Mix the solution by stirring slowly. Try to keep bubbles and foam from forming on the surface.
  • Cut the cardboard box into sections about 6 by 8 inches (15 by 20 centimeters). Make one for each person. You will use the cardboard as squeegees to clear extra liquid away from the work area.
  • Have sheets of a roll of paper towels nearby to soak up spills or to blot an area dry. Plain vinegar also works well to break down the soap and help clean off the work surface.
  • Put supplies and tools in the center of the work area. Pour a small amount of bubble solution into a bowl or tray.

Bubble Production

  • Distribute one Bubble Construction Chart to each explorer or team. (Keep your chart on a separate, dry surface while you test your bubble production tools.)
  • Each individual or team then selects one of the bubble products to produce. Next, design a tool that will produce the bubble product, and then record their method for others to follow.
  • Choose the type of materials needed to construct the tool.
  • Assemble and test the tool until the tool produces consistent results. Remember, the goal is to produce a bubble product as described on the construction chart.
  • Once you have perfected your method, write step-by-step directions to explain how to produce your bubble product. Give the directions to someone else or another team. Do they get the same results?
  • Continue the design and production of the other bubble products. Fill in the chart while you work.

According to fellow scientist, Joseph Priestly, Ben Franklin performed his famous kite experiment in June 1752. Franklin had been interested in “electric fire” for quite a while and had an on-going dialogue with other scientists of his day about the phenomenon. His famous key experiment established that lightning was a form of electricity.

There are a couple of myths about this famous experiment though. First, the kite experiment did not help Franklin “discover” electricity. Humans had known about electrical forces for more than a millennium. What it did do was establish the connection between electricity and lightning, and it ultimately led to Franklin’s refinement of the of the lightning rod. These devices are still used today on taller buildings to help channel the electric charge from a lightning bolt safely to the ground.

Also, neither Franklin nor the kite were actually struck by lightning. (He likely would have died if either had happened!) The wet hemp string that he attached to the kite was a good conductor of electricity, and they key attached to the string picked up electrical charge from the air in the active storm.

While we would not recommend that you replicate Franklin’s experiment, there are some easy ways to investigate static electricity at home and remember Franklin’s contributions to STEM.

Static Electricity Race

You’ll need: two aluminum cans, some masking tape, and two balloons.

Here’s what you do:

  • Using masking tape, mark a “start” and a “finish” line on the floor about 1 yard (1 meter) apart.
  • Place 2 empty soft drink cans on their sides on the starting line.
  • Inflate and tie-off 2 balloons. To charge the balloons, rub them rapidly back and forth on your clothing for a minute.
  • When you’re ready for the race, hold the balloons near the cans, without touching them to the cans, and have someone say “go.”
  • Each person tries to move his/her can across the finish line using only the static electricity of the balloon. Don’t touch the balloons to the cans!
  • After the race, ask participants what caused the balloons to move? (Static electricity – charged particles you rubbed off your clothes and onto the balloon.) Then ask if they can identify whether the part of the can nearest the balloon had similar or opposite charges. How could they tell? (Opposite charges attract. Like charges repel.)

Have fun!

Be sure to check out more from Family Science & Engineering guidebook for more ideas to inspire engineering exploration!

In a video recorded interview, Pedro Martinez, superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District, told Jan Morrison, founder of TIES, that it’s not just enough to “go back” to school and that it’s time to “be better.”

Martinez, who is also chair of the Chiefs for Change, offered broad comments about the role of ecosystems in improving schools, how rewarding and paying teachers a decent wage is a matter of social justice and how children are ready for learning and challenges.

The conversation with Morrison and Martinez was a follow-up to the Spring 2020 STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice convening held in San Antonio where Martinez spoke in-person and challenged Ecosystem leaders to better engage their students.

Watch the Interview

Pottsville High School is accepting applications for an EAST/CS educator for grades 10-12. Applications will be accepted Thursday, June 10, 2021 12:00 AM – Thursday, July 15, 2021 11:59 PM (Central Standard Time).

Hope High School in Hope, Arkansas has several teacher positions open. Please contact the principal, Bill Hoglund, at [email protected] or 870-777-3451 ext 60.

There are also the following full-time educator positions available:

Please bear in mind that our previous announcement for a 1/2 Business, 1/2 Computer Science educator has been filled.

Heber Springs High School in Heber Springs, Arkansas has a 9-12 Computer Science teacher position available. For more information about open positions, please visit the school’s district position opening webpage here.

The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Office of Computer Science is pleased to announce the launch of the “Computers ARe Fun” video series. This series of videos, which will be released throughout the Summer of 2021, are intended for younger viewers, typically Pre-K – 5th grade, and will help children understand the basics of computers, including introductory computer literacy, some coding, low level hardware discussions, and appropriate cybersecurity and internet security topics. In addition, the series will share information about computer science and computing careers in a fun way.

Videos within the series will be posted to the ADE YouTube page in the “Computers ARe Fun” playlist as they are made available at

Episode 1, “What is a computer?” has been posted and is available today!

While the first episode is more of an introduction to the series, subsequent episodes will delve into various computer science and computing topics. Some of the content shared will be accessible online, but much of it will focus on unplugged activities that children can explore with their family without the use of computing devices.

If you have any questions, comments, or want to get involved in the creation of a “Computers ARe Fun” video for this summer, please reach out to [email protected].