Monday, July 1, 2013

Civil War Weapons, and Making an Air Vortex Cannon

Artillery Guns! How we love them. In fact, Abraham chose to do his Final Project on Civil War Artillery. They are really quite fascinating. We also became very interested in muskets and small arms. Did you know, for example, that rifling refers to the spiral grooves inside the barrel of a gun, which help the bullet spin and therefore go farther and straighter? Some older muskets used in the war were smoothbore (non-rifled) and didn't work nearly as well. This video shows a musket firing in slow motion---you can see the flash as the initial charge, and then the powder in the barrel, ignites. So cool! And here is a website that was very informative.
We made this chart during our discussion---there is a lot of weapons vocabulary that I never knew before! I never thought I could be so interested in guns.

We watched the end section of this video, which shows how a team of artillerymen loaded and fired cannons in the Civil War. (And we got to see real cannons fired here earlier!) Cannons are just one type of artillery gun, we learned. There are also howitzers and mortars, which have a higher angle of fire and usually fire shells instead of solid shot.

Anyway, I thought the perfect activity for our weapons day would be to make a cannon of our own---an air cannon, of course! We tried a couple designs (this was our first attempt) and thought this one worked the very best. (It is also the simplest; all you need is any size box, and packing tape. You cut a round hole in one side of the box, tape up all the other sides so no air can escape, and you're all set!)

Air cannons are so fun. We tried filling ours with flour and shaking it up to see if we could make the vortex visible, but it didn't work too well. We considered putting a candle inside to make smoke, but it seemed like too much trouble (and I didn't want to light the box on fire).
You can see a slight ring of flour dust in front of the cannon's hole

We had a great time playing around with our cannon. It was pretty powerful even with such a small box! Next time we get a package in the mail we're going to use the box to make a bigger cannon.
Flying cups!

It was also fun to shoot at targets from opposite sides at the same time

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