Vortex Cannon Lesson Plan
Amount of time Demo takes: 3-5 min
1. 2 Vortex Cannons (be gentle with them please)
2. Smoke machine and fog juice
3. Large paper/plastic/Styrofoam cups
Set up instructions:
1. Fill smoke machine with fog juice, do not overfill.
2. Plug in the smoke machine and turn on. Place on heat resistant surface.
3. Wait a few min for machine to warm up.
4. Press remote button for smoke to be released into the cannon. The nozzle for the smoke
machine is extremely hot - do not touch vortex cannon/fingers to it.
5. Have someone stand 15-30ft away with a cup on their head, or set up a tower of cups on a
table and aim the cannon from 20-30 ft away.
6. Pull on the back of the cannon, and aim at the person’s head. A smoke ring should come out.
7. The smoke ring vortex will travel to the target and knock over the cup(s). You can do this until
you run out of smoke, then you can refill it. You can do this demo without smoke, but you will
not see the vortex traveling.
8. As you pull back the elastic part of the cannon, the energy is transferred between air particles.
The movement of the smoke ring is kinetic energy (physical energy). The smoke in the core area
of the ring will dissipate and the smoke ring will remain stable as it travels.
The smoke travels in a ring shape because a vortex was created.
1. If people have asthma or other respiratory problems the smoke may be irritating to them.
2. The smoke machine gets very hot - do not touch nozzle where smoke is released. Keep the
smoke machine on a heat-resistant surface.
3. Turn off smoke machine at least an hour before packing up to ensure it is cool enough to pack.
What is the demo/lessons objective or big idea briefly?
● Vortex rings are rolling donut-shapes of fluid — which move through the fluid (most
often air, and sometimes water). A smoke ring is a common example of a vortex ring.
Because of the way they rotate, a vortex ring can hold itself together and travel for quite a
● Bernoulli's principle can be derived from the principle of conservation of energy. This
states that, in a steady flow, the sum of all forms of mechanical energy in a fluid along
a streamline is the same at all points on that streamline. This requires that the sum of
kinetic energy and potential energy remain constant. If the fluid is flowing out of a
reservoir the sum of all forms of energy is the same on all streamlines because in a
reservoir the energy per unit mass (the sum of pressure and gravitational potentialρ g h) is
the same everywhere.[4]
● Fluid particles are subject only to pressure and their own weight. If a fluid is flowing
horizontally and along a section of a streamline, where the speed increases it can only
be because the fluid on that section has moved from a region of higher pressure to a
region of lower pressure; and if its speed decreases, it can only be because it has moved
from a region of lower pressure to a region of higher pressure. Consequently, within a
fluid flowing horizontally, the highest speed occurs where the pressure is lowest, and the
lowest speed occurs where the pressure is highest.
Instructional Procedure
1. Fill up the vortex with smoke. You can use a smoke machine or dry ice.
2. Pull back the elastic part on the back of the cannon and aim it at target.
3. Fire away!
Mini Vortex cannons procedure
1. Cut a hole out of the bottom of a plastic cup, or any small cylindrical container
2. On the top of the cup, take a balloon cut off the narrow tip and stretch over cup.
3. Pull back on the balloon, and release. It should produce a mini vortex ring that can be seen if
you fill the cup with smoke.
1. What is the ring that comes out of the cannon called?
2. Why is the ring of air able to knock things over?
Clean Up
Clean up between demonstrations if needed. When completely finished gather all materials listed
for this demonstration and make sure everything is accounted for. If something was used up,
broken or damaged. Let someone know so it can get replaced or fixed.
*Turn off smoke machine one hour before cleaning up to ensure it is cool enough to pack.
References (Include any websites, books etc that 1, back up your explanation of the demo,
and 2, someone can go to find more information.):
National Standards
K-4 Content Standard B Physical Science, Position and motion of objects.
Gr 5-8 Content Standard B, Motions and forces, Transfer of Energy
Gr 9-12 Content Standard B, Motions and forces