My daughter loves to read. Ever since she entered the world of chapter books and young novels, her voracious appetite for reading has been nearly unstoppable! Favorite books have been read and reread dozens of times, and I’m always looking for something new to sate her interests.
It came to my attention that one of our favorite TV Scientists, Science Bob had written a kids novel with Steve Hockensmith called “Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab!”. It’s about two kids named Nick and Tesla who get involved in some pretty crazy adventures, and they use the power of science to navigate through them! We absolutely adore Science Bob, and his book looked amazing! I couldn’t wait to get a copy for Kat. I asked Science Bob if he could send us a copy and much to our delight, he did! He sent us an autographed copy and even included this awesome girl power (with the periodic table!) shirt for Kat!
Kat was beyond thrilled and started reading this book as soon as we got it out of the package. She didn’t stop reading until she had gone through it 3 times! She spent many afternoons going through our science supply cabinet, looking for things to build “super spy traps, just like Nick and Tesla!”
I finally got a hold of this book, and read it in one sitting (I could not put this down!). After reading this, all I have to say is that this book is AMAZING. This is by far, the best science adventure book I have ever read, and I am so glad that this is available for kids to get lost in and inspired by! Here is a brief rundown on what this book is about, and then I’ll show you the rocket car we built after reading it!
Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab tells the story of two kids (Nick and Tesla) who spend the summer with their uncle, Newt Galileo Holt (this book is peppered with delightful homages to famous scientists). Newt has pressure sensor doormats that ring his doorbell, a self-starting and moving lawn mower, and an insane lab with rocket gear, electronics, machines, chemistry equipment, petri dishes, and telescopes in all arrays of assortment, all over the place!
After an eventful beginning with a botched science experiment, the uncle leaves to take a shower, telling the kids, “don’t touch this, DEFINITELY don’t touch that, this will melt a hole through the floor, and this will cause an explosion if you let these two mix. Otherwise, GO NUTS!”
The kids then proceed to work on building their own rocket, and the next three pages are devoted to instructions on how to build your own rocket at home! The kids get into some pretty crazy adventures, and use their skills in science and engineering to get out of them. In an attempt to solve a mystery that plagues their neighborhood, they build rockets, rocket powered cars, electromagnetic capture devices, invisible ink messages, and an intruder alert system! All of these projects have fully detailed instructions in the following pages so your kids can follow in the footsteps of Nick and Tesla and make their own awesome science gadgets!
As a side note, I absolutely love the attitudes of the little boy and girl in the story. They’re creative, compassionate, they have a strong sense of justice, and a healthy dose of curiosity. Their ingenuity and take charge attitude is something that I am more than happy to have serve as a role model for my own little science girl!
After reading the book, there was one project that Kat was absolutely determined to build at home. Used as a distraction device for the vicious guard dogs in the book, the kids built a Mentos and Diet Coke powered rocket cat! This car served them very well throughout their adventures, and we wanted to try our hand at making our own!
ROBO ROCKET KITTY!
1 2-liter bottle of Diet Cola
1 package of Mentos candies
Wire coat hanger
3 ballpoint pens
A binder clip
A responsible adult to help with the glue and drill
1. Use the pliers to pull the writing points and ink cartridges from two of the pens.
2. Use the nail to poke a hole through the other end of the pens. (If the ends are capped, you can simply remove the caps.)
3. Use the wire cutters to cut two straight pieces of coat hanger about 2 inches (5 cm) longer than the pens.
4. Put the soup can on the cardboard and trace four wheels. Use the scissors to cut out the wheels. (Note: We cut out 8 wheels, and glued two of them together to create each wheel. This gave us a sturdier wheel with the particular cardboard we were using)
5. To find the exact center of each wheel, use the soup can to trace another circle on a piece of paper. Cut out the circle and fold it in half and then into quarters. When you unfold the paper circle, the creases will intersect in the middle. Place the paper circle over each cardboard circle and use the third pen to poke through the center.
6. Using the pliers, bend one end of each coat hanger about 3/4 inch (2 cm) from the end, forming a right angle.
7. Slide one of the wheels onto each wire and hot glue the wheel in place. Make sure the wheels line up nicely with the wire and be sure the glue doesn’t get on the pen.
9. Slide on another wheel and glue the wire to the while as in step 7, make sure the wheels line up. Once dry, the wheels should spin freely inside the pen.
10. Hot glue the pens onto the top and bottom of the soda bottle. Use plenty of glue to make sure they’re secure, and check that the wheels line up correctly.
11. Have a responsible adult drill a 1/4 inch (0.65 cm) hole in the middle of the soda cap.
12. Use the pushpin to carefully poke a hole through the middle of five Mentos candies, one at a time.
13. Straighten out the paper clip except for a small bend at one end. Poke the paper clip through each of the Mentos.
14. Place the cap on top of the Mentos by feeding the paper clip through the hole.
15. Use the binder clip to keep the paper clip from dropping through the cap.
THE FINAL STEPS
1. Determine a travel route and clear any obstacles out of the way. The rocket can travel up to 30 ft (9 m) -and once it starts, there’s no turning back!
2. Go to your testing location outside and securely screw the cap onto the bottle. Be sure the Mentos do not get soda on them. You may need to pour out some of the soda.
3. Remove the binder clip, allowing the Mentos to drop into the soda.
4. Quickly tilt the rocket car onto its wheels.
5. Stand back! When the mints are submerged in the soda, they produce plenty of extra carbon dioxide. This exploding gas is what turns a plastic bottle into a whizzing rocket car!
Note for kitty instructions: Inspired by the adventures of Nick and Tesla, we wanted to turn our rocket car into an actual rocket cat! We just used some additional strips of cardboard, cutting them out to fit the length and width of the soda bottle (11 inch x 4 inch sections). After painting them, we glued the sides so they would form a three sided box to fit over the bottle.
We used the soup can to trace another circle for the face, and cut out additional strips of cardboard for the ears, eyes, nose, and whiskers. After making the face and a tail, our cat was finished!
We added some brads to the bottom of each side piece (gluing the brad ends in place), so we could fit rubber bands around the soda bottle, securing the bottle to the box.
We took our robo Rocket Kitty out in our neighborhood and invited a friend to join us in testing it out. It was a huge success! The rocket went over 44 feet, and everything held up beautifully! The wheels are reusable (I just peel them off and glue them on to the next bottle), as well as the body, which means we can have an awesome rocket kitty any time we like!
We’ll also be taking our rocket kitty to our local maker space, Hacker Haven! We had a blast testing our first version of the rocket, as we had a group of about 15 kids and parents, marching through the library, completely ecstatic about launching rockets and playing with science! Even the concierge and security officers asked me to give them a heads up before we do it again, so they can come out and watch too! It wasn’t as successful as this second version, but after going through the instructions more carefully (I missed a crucial step), I can’t wait to take our working model with us the next time we go!
Perhaps we can all work toward building our own rocket cars, decorating them, and then racing them at our maker space… (A Mentos and Diet Coke rocket race at the library? Awesome!)
For now though, we are incredibly happy and proud of our robo rocket kitty. It looks just like the one we had imagined Nick and Tesla to use in Science Bob’s awesome book! I can’t wait to see what ideas we can be inspired by in the next one, Robot Army Rampage!
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