Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Hydropower Bottle Experiment

By Brooke Drake, October 19, 2016, Family

Welcome to Fun with Less Kilowatts! We believe that science experiments at home can be a creative way to engage kids in learning while having fun. They can be educational AND great activities to keep your kids busy and away from the television. Each month, we’ll feature a new science experiment that can be a great resource for parents and teachers.

The Hydropower Bottle Experiment

This experiment allows kids to see first-hand how energy can be made from something as simple as water! Not only can this water experiment be a lesson on hydropower, but it can also be fun!

The Materials

Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Hydropower Bottle Experiment | Bounce Energy Blog

  • Two-liter plastic bottle
  • Pencil
  • Straws
  • Tape
  • String
  • Pitcher of water
  • Scissors

The Setting

Warning: You may get wet!

This experiment involves water spilling out of the bottle in six different directions, so it’s best to perform this experiment outside or over the sink. I’ve even seen this experiment performed in the bathtub and used as a bath toy (depending on the age of your child).

The Directions

Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Hydropower Bottle Experiment | Bounce Energy Blog

  1. Cut the top off of the plastic bottle, taking care to prevent any sharp edges in the plastic.
  2. Punch six holes around the base of the bottle. Some versions of this experiment recommend using a pencil, but I found it difficult, so I used a thumbtack to poke a hole and then used scissors to make the hole larger. For safety purposes, this step should be done by an adult.
  3. Next, cut two straws into six even pieces. Push a piece of straw into each of the six holes. Then secure each piece of straw with tape on both sides.
  4. Cut four pieces of string all the same size. Punch three holes around the top of the bottle and tie one of the cut strings through each hole.
  5. Take the three strings and tie them all together to the fourth string at the top.
  6. Hold the bottle upright with the string. Pour the pitcher of water into the bottle. Watch what the power of water does to the bottle.

The Result

Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Hydropower Bottle Experiment | Bounce Energy Blog

The water pours out of the straws, which causes the bottle to spin around. When the water rushes out, it creates energy that causes the bottle to move. While the bottle didn’t spin quickly, it definitely did spin!

The Science

Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Hydropower Bottle Experiment | Bounce Energy Blog

This experiment demonstrates the basics of hydroelectric power. Once the water is poured into the bottle, the force of the water rushing out of the straws causes the bottle to rotate around.

This is the same idea when it comes to creating hydroelectric power on a larger scale. Instead of straws and plastic bottles, it’s rushing rivers and turbines. When water rushes downstream, the sheer force of the water is used to spin a turbine inside of a generator, which then creates electricity.

Dams were built on many of the major mountain rivers to harness hydroelectric power from the rushing waters. In addition to harnessing power, dams were also built to be able to control the amount of water that passes through to account for things like weather and energy demand.

The largest dam in terms of hydropower generation in the U.S. is the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington. It has three major hydroelectric power generating plants and generates about 21 billion kWh a year on average. Now that’s a lot of water power!

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