These Nerf science experiments are so much fun! Test how wind and weight affect the distance that a Nerf dart travels. I love these science experiments because kids will enjoy the process, and it’s not hard to get a clear result.
- A Nerf gun and dart – we used the Nerf N-Strike NanoFire, but any Nerf gun will work
- A tape measure – the dart will travel far enough that a ruler will be a pain! However, a ruler will work if needed.
- A pencil
- Nerf science experiment recording sheet – print yours at the bottom of the post.
- An outdoor space
- A small nut or similar
- Super glue
Experiment #1: How does wind affect how far a Nerf dart travels?
Start by determining which way the wind is blowing. Discuss with kids the concept of shooting into the wind (against the wind) or with the wind (the wind is blowing the dart forward).
You don’t need a lot of wind. We did our experiments on a day that was breezy, but not super windy. I would avoid doing this on a day with strong gusts of wind, however. I think that would make it difficult to get consistent results.
Shoot a dart into the wind. Be sure to stand at the same place each time. We chose a certain sidewalk square to use as our starting line.
TIP: The dart will likely bounce when it lands, so it’s very helpful to have a second person who can stand near the expected landing place and mark where the dart landed. It’s impossible to mark the exact spot, but you can get very close. Place a stone in the spot where the dart landed, or make a mark with some sidewalk chalk.
We found that the dart traveled, on average, 13 ft. and 1 inch farther with the wind versus against the wind. That’s a big difference!
Experiment #2: How does weight affect how far a Nerf dart travels?
For this part of the experiment, we used Gorilla super glue to attach a small nut to the tip of a Nerf dart. I wasn’t sure how well it would stick, but it worked quite well! We did many trials with the dart, and the nut did not come off.
Repeat the experiment that you did above (shooting into the wind and with the wind), but use your weighted dart this time.
Why does a weighted dart travel less distance? The reason may surprise you!
Our results for this portion of the experiment were very interesting! The weighted dart did not travel as far, which we predicted. The extra weight caused it to not travel as far.
If you drop both darts (the weighted one and the non-weighted one) from the same height, they will land at the same time. Heavier objects actually do not fall faster because of their weight. However, a lighter object will take longer to reach the ground if it has an appreciable amount of air resistance. You can easily test this concept with two pieces of paper. Wad up one piece of paper into a ball. Drop both pieces of paper and see which one reaches the ground first. It will be the wadded up paper because it has less air resistance.
So why does the weighted dart cover less ground?
The weighted dart exits the gun with a lower velocity (speed) because of its added weight. The gun is going to apply the same force to the dart each time. When the dart is launched from the gun, it has a greater speed when it has less mass (weight).
Both times (weighted and non-weighted) the dart fell to the ground in the same amount of time. However, the weighted dart traveled at a lower speed and covered less ground than the non-weighted dart.
Now, what made this interesting is that there was less of a decrease in ground traveled between the dart shot into the wind and the weighted dart shot into the wind. This is because the weighted dart has more momentum to fight against the force of the wind. So the distance traveled was less, but it wasn’t as much less.
Ready to print your recording sheet? Click the link below. The file will open and you can print from there.
CLICK HERE: Nerf Science Experiment Recording Sheet
Need more science experiments for kids? We’ve got lots!
Click Here: Science Experiments for Kids