Chain reactions are a great fun STEM project that always keep my kids busy for hours. This Christmas themed version can be adapted in lots of different ways using whatever you have handy around the house. Books can be used as dominoes, baubles as balls and bells to make a noise.
A chain reaction is a brilliant way to demonstrate how energy can change from one form into another and how it is transferred between objects.
Sometimes this type of chain reaction is called a Rube Goldberg Machine.
Other festive items
How to make a Christmas chain reaction
First, plan the chain reaction. Work backwards and forwards thinking about how each step will trigger the next.
Test each stage.
Set up the whole chain reaction.
Test and improve the system.
For example – sellotape rolls into dominoes which push a bauble forward which pushes a car down a ramp into another bauble which rolls into a bell.
Step 1 – sellotape rolls into dominoes
Step 2 – dominoes crash into a bauble which rolls into a bell.
Why does this happen?
A chain reaction is when the movement of one object triggers the movement of another object.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed but changes from one form into another. This is called conservation of energy. For example, a moving ball has kinetic energy which is transferred to whatever the ball collides with.
At each step, energy is transferred from one object to another.
One way to make an object gain kinetic energy is to include a downward ramp in the chain reaction!
Use my handy template to plan your chain reaction!
Set up a simple chain reaction lasting 30 seconds or more using simple materials.
Create a chain reaction with 4 or more steps.
Set up a chain reaction with a ramp doing down and one going upwards!
Create a chain reaction with an end goal, such as popping a balloon or making a noise.
Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by Emma Vanstone