Made A Super Bouncy Ball

“A boy cannot begin playing ball too early. I might almost say that while he is still creeping on all fours he should have a bouncing rubber ball.”
--Christy Mathewson

Tonight, after arriving back home
from Truckee, I decided to try to make a super bouncy ball from a science kit we found in a toy store a few months ago. It's produced by the Smithsonian and looked like it could be fun. When I was a kid, I used to love getting these things from the little vending machines in the supermarket and bouncing them super high.
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The kit comes with the powder used to make the balls, which looked like colored salt crystals, an Erlenmeyer flask, a mold, and instructions.
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The instructions were supposed to be simple. I started by filling up the flask with 200 mL of water.
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I took the crystals and filled the mold with them.
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I dropped the mold into the water and let it sit in there for 1 minute.
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I took it out and let it sit for 3 minutes.
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Finally, I removed the mold. This is where it's supposed to be a ball and I just let it dry for an hour, but instead we got a powdery mess all over the place.
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I started experimenting with the amount of packing the crystals needed in the mold. I tried less crystals because I thought that the mold let more water in it might help. It didn't. Then I tried more crystals hoping it would possibly sink more. That didn't work either.
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J and I then tried forcing the mold to be submerged by placing a couple of spoons on it. This helped set the outside, but the inside stayed powdery and the ball fell apart after I opened the mold.
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Eventually, we got a combination to work where air bubbles came out of the mold and the mold sank. I left it in the water an extended period of time and left it sitting in the mold an extra amount of time as well. This allowed it to take in enough water to make the ball.
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I took it out of the mold and let it dry overnight. The next morning I tested it out and it bounced. Success!

This kit was a disappointment to me. The instructions weren't clear enough to let me know if I was doing it correctly or not, and they also did not indicate how the science in the experiment worked. It's definitely set up to be an educational device, but it doesn't tell you why you're doing it, what you're trying to achieve, how the chemical reactions are supposed to work, or even anything remotely educational. For something that's designed for kids, I think the target audience would just get frustrated at this product.

I did eventually get to the intended result with a fun, usable bouncy ball, but in the end, I would not recommend this kit at all.

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