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Superball Bake-Off!

Graham Phillips's picture

When you think of "science," what words or pictures come up in your mind?  Write or draw you answer in the space below:








Now, let's try a science-based activity.  For today, pretend you are an inventor for a toy company.  Some people you work with have researched and found a recipe that, when mixed and heated, will produce a superball for children to play with.  (The term superball means that the ball will bounce very high when it strikes a relatively hard surface).  They know that this ball is made of a mix of borax (like laundry detergent), corn starch, and glue.  Your job:  to figure out how much of each to use to make a ball that will actually work. 

Begin by going to the following website:

In the space below, detail your first account of making the ball.  How much borax and cornstarch did you use?

Chemical  Trial 1   
 Corn Starch    

Results:  What happened to the ball?  Did it work?  If not, what went wrong?  What would you do differently?






Now, try the exercise again, but do the following:

If the ball did not work the first time, try to make the ball again.

If the ball did work the first time, see if there is another arrangement of the ingredients that will work.

Fill in the table below with your second attempt:

 Chemical  Trial 2
 Corn Starch  

What happened to the ball?  Did it work?  If not, what happened?









If you made the ball correctly, try to find another recipe.  If not, try to make the ball correctly.  Try to find at least two correct recipes that will make the ball properly.  Record your data in the chart below:

Ingredient  Trial 3 
 Corn Starch  


The accounting department at your toy company has come up with the following data regarding production of the superball.  Cornstarch can be purchased in bulk for $0.75 a tablespoon, while borax can be purchased in bulk for $1.00 a teaspoon.  What would be the cost to make the ball, given your first correct recipe?  Your second?