Introduction: Alka Seltzer Powered Bathtub Boat

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

My daughter had a school assignment to bring a boat that could cross a fish tank under its own power. It was legal for dads to help. Some chose rubber band power. I decided on bubbles from Alka Seltzer mixing with water.

I used a piece of styrofoam about 1/2 inch thick (See the right portion of the graphic.) and a plastic canister from a roll of 35 mm film. Not shown is a piece of clear plastic tube for a fish tank air pump about 3/16 inch in diameter on the outside or less.

Cut out the styrofoam to receive, but still support the film canister. The hole at the rear of the boat is for the clear plastic tube. Shape the styrofoam to resemble a boat hull.

Step 1: Inside the Film Canister

Make wire support to hold an Alka Seltzer tablet up from the bottom of the film canister near the top of the canister.

The left portion of the graphic shows a cutaway view of the inside of the canister with the wire support in place. The right portion of the graphic shows the wire support.

Step 2: Just Add Water and an Alka Seltzer

Fill the film canister about half full with water. Rest an Alka Seltzer tablet on top of the wire support.

At the right half of the graphic you see the film canister cap with clear plastic tube inserted through a hole drilled in the cap. The tube should fit snugly in the cap. The tube should also be a bit longer than shown here.

Without allowing the water to come into contact with the Alka Seltzer tablet yet, place the cap firmly onto the canister.

Step 3: Use the Boat

Insert the capped film canister into the opening for it in the boat's hull while holding the hull vertical. When ready to use, turn the hull horizontal and place it into water. The water inside the canister will come into contact with the Alka Seltzer and begin making bubbles. The bubbles will travel through the tube and move the boat forward until the Alka Seltzer is fully dissolved.

I would like to say my daughter won the challenge at her school. She was too young and small to insert the Alka Seltzer reliably after arriving at school. So, she had to walk about three blocks to school and the water in the canister came into contact with the tablet before she arrived. But, it worked well when we tested it at home. She is an adult now. But, she wrote me a nice thank you on tablet paper, which note I still treasure.