How to Make a Homemade Submarine That Floats & Sinks

Teach your children about water density by making a homemade submarine.
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Impress your kids with an interesting educational project to explain how submarines sink and float. Use an empty water bottle and baking powder to create a simple submarine that will sink and float several times before needing to be refilled. Turn your bathtub into an afternoon of fun with submarine races, seeing whose submarine can resurface the fastest or the most times.

    Poke four holes along one side of the water bottle using the knife. Each hole should be about the width of a birthday candle. This will be the bottom of your submarine.

    Pour a tablespoon of baking powder into the bottle so that it settles over the holes.

    Add five marbles to the bottle. This will help add weight to the bottle and keep it from rolling over on top of the water. Put the cap on and tighten it.

    Place the bottle bottom-side down into a bathtub filled with water. Water will fill the bottle through the holes in the bottom, causing it to sink. When the baking powder reacts with the water inside the bottle, it will release carbon dioxide gas. This will create bubbles and cause the bottle to rise back to the surface of the water. This process can happen several times before the baking powder is completely dissolved.

    Change the amount of baking powder and the number of marbles in the bottle, and record the changes. Keep track of how the changes affect the submarine, such as how many times it resurfaces or how long it takes it to resurface under the new conditions.

    Things You'll Need

    • Empty plastic water bottle
    • Knife
    • Baking powder
    • Marbles


    • Don't substitute baking soda for baking powder; baking soda won't have the same reaction with water and won't cause the bottle to rise.

      Customize your submarine by attaching a plastic propeller to the back, also cut from a bottle, or gluing part of a bending straw to the top as a periscope.

      Paint your submarine with water-safe paint, giving it a cool name across the side.


    • Be extra careful not to cut yourself when punching holes with the knife. Only adults should perform this step.

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