Xtreme STEM

Cannon Lab - Senior


Cannons are a great way to learn about Newton's Laws of Motion!

  1. Inertia
  2. Force
  3. Reaction

You are going to change the follow independent variable, and observe what happens to the motion of the cannon and the cannon ball:

  • Fuel amount
  • Air amount
  • Mix time
  • Chamber vs barrel length
  • Angle
  • Ball mass


  • You need a good air-fuel mixture
    (You can increase the air in the mixture by blowing into the hole with a straw)
  • You will need the alcohol to evaporate (it is the vapor that will explode - not the liquid)
  • You need to choose a balance between how much room you leave for the fuel and barrel length
    (how far you push the ball into the pipe)


Eye Eye protection must be worn

Hair Long hair must be tied back

Gloves Leather gloves must be worn when lighting the cannon

Eyes NEVER look in the barrel of the cannon when it has a ball in it

Author	Daniel Catt NEVER point the cannon at anyone

1) Cannon Launch


Can you make the cannon fire?





Prepare (Inside)

  1. Place the end cap on the end of your pipe with a small hole in it
  2. Tape the end cap on
  3. Squirt 10 pumps of Ethanol mist into the cannon
  4. Roll the cannon to spread the fuel around
  5. Blow in the big end for 10 seconds
  6. Keep rolling and waiting for fuel to evaporate for about 30-60 seconds
  7. Place the tennis ball into the cannon
  8. Measure on the push-rod how far you want to push the ball in (50-75cm)
  9. Push the ball into the cannon
  10. Roll cannon on its side for another 30 seconds
  11. Blow extra air into the small hole with the air compressor

Fire! (Outside)

  1. Place cannon on ground
  2. Turn it so the hole is on the side (not top)
  3. Raise the firing end of the cannon using a bottle
  4. Place a glove on the hand you are going to fire the cannon with
  5. Make sure no-one is in the way
  6. Yell, "FIRING in 3,2,1"
  7. Light the lighter, bring the flame close to the hole
  8. Write down everything you did in the table below
  9. Try again!
  10. Keep trying until you get the ball to fire at least 10m



Squirts of Fuel Ball Depth (cm) Distance Fired (m)



2) Inertia


Which will go further a heavy or light cannon ball?



Once you have figured out how to make the cannon work well, it is time to experiment with Inertia.

"A cannon ball in motion will remain in motion!"



Keep everything the same for the next two tests, except the mass of the ball

  1. Predict which will go further (and why) a light ball or a heavy one?
  2. Fire a normal tennis ball
  3. Measure its distance
  4. Fire a heavy tennis ball
  5. Measure its distance


Cannon Ball Type

Distance (m)




Which went further?

Which has more inertia?

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