Archive for Monday, March 12, 2012


River City Jules: Driveway becomes lab at science fair time

March 12, 2012


My friend Jean pulled into our driveway, laughing as my son shot orange soda out of its bottle all over the garage door.

“Science experiment?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, looking back to our house at what my life had become.

Luke, our 10-year-old, had decided Christmas morning, when Santa left him a Mentos-dropping tube, that we was going to drop Mentos mints into various sodas for the annual science fair.

At the time, it seemed like a great idea. Actually, at the time, I figured he would change his mind or lose the dropper before the science fair.

Yet as soon as the dreaded science fair info sheets emerged from his backpack, he had us off to the store to buy three different sodas and four tubes of Mentos.

My husband and I both have degrees in biology. We entered parenthood clueless about things like how to avoid working the moonwalk at the school carnival or why no slumber party should involve more than four kids, but we were armed for the annual science experiment.

Under our expert lab instruction, our kids have molded cheese, evaporated water, cleaned pennies, assessed the listening skills of neighborhood dogs and more.

Still, with all of this experience, I only bought one Coke, one Sprite and one Sunkist for Luke’s experiment.

He prepared the space by hanging two poster boards to the exterior of our house marked in two-inch increments to measure the mint-soda eruption. He then screwed the dropper onto the bottle of Sprite, set four mints to drop and stood back while I readied the camera to video the experiment. He pulled the pin, the Mentos dropped into the Sprite and the Sprite soon burst out of the bottle, far above the top of the poster board, invalidating the results, as the soda shot too high to be measured.

Out one bottle of Sprite I would have to go to the store to replace, we decided to go ahead and measure the Coke, adding another poster board to the set. Three Mentos later, the Coke was shooting above our garage’s roofline.

Variables exploded all over our home, we decided to table the experiment until he had adequate supplies available.

For take two, he decided to further reduce the Mentos count to two per bottle. Starting with the Sunkist this time, Luke prepared and loaded the dropper, pulling the pin on cue. He had forgotten to wash the Mentos dropper, though, and the pin stuck and knocked the bottle down, sending foaming, shooting Sunkist all over the driveway, the house, the videographer and the mad scientist himself, before he finally released the dropper from the bottle.

Luckily, Luke executed his third trial flawlessly, leaving himself five extra bottles and 25 extra Mentos to shoot into the air for sport.

I turned back to Jean and laughed. Marveling at his geysers, Luke proved Coke explodes the highest, but he also reminded me to worry less and enjoy the process more.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


Terry Sexton 6 years, 3 months ago

You are a fun lady. I love your 'slices of life' stories.

RiverCityJules 6 years, 3 months ago

Thanks! And, no we didn't, I bet that would skyrocket! We just got the house hosed down, though. We might have to wait on that one a bit longer!!

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