Introduction: Hydrophobic Maze

About: I have the best job ever! I get to do science assemblies for elementary schools and after school science programs along with science summer camps and birthday parties! I love learning new things and creatin…

One day as I was working with some hydrophobic paint I noticed that a
couple of my Grandkids playing with a small plastic toy maze, I found myself thinking that it would be cool to make a maze that used a small bead of water rather than a metal or plastic ball. I soon found myself making several different styles of mazes using simple materials and testing them out with various hydrophobic coatings. Needless to say, the kids have not stopped playing with these mazes, as well as most of the adults that try them out. There are several products that can be used to create hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces. a hydrophilic surface has a contact angle which is less than 90 degrees whereas a hydrophobic surface has a contact angle greater than 90 degrees. Superhydrophobic surfaces have a contact angles greater than 150 degrees causing water to bead up and roll off of the surface area. I tested seven different products and found that the "Never Wet" Multi surface (two part) spray paint made by Rust Oleum is clearly the best to use for this project. Do not attempt to use the Never Wet spray for fabric as the contact angle is less than 150 which will not work in this application.

Step 1: Supplies Needed

You can make your maze from a variety of materials. I began with a
simple 1/8" piece of press board and several different small wooden shapes that I had from a previous project. I later built one using some flat foam pieces and small foam shapes that I found in the grand kids crafting box. Here are the items that I used:

1) 5" X 7" x 1/8" wood

2) Small square sticks from craft store 2.56" X 0.09 " (6.5 cm X 0.25 cm)

3) Utility knife

4) Wood glue

5) Tweezers

6) Sandpaper

7) Never Wet (R) paint

8) Pencil

9) Pipette or water dropper


1) white spray paint

2) maze printed on paper and on transparency

3) various thin wood shapes from craft store, Popsicle sticks or foam shapes

4) self stick labels

5) hole punch

Step 2: Plan It Out and Get Started

Determine what materials you will be using and what "style" of maze you
would like to build. I started with a pretty simple maze just to try out the concept and then started getting a little more creative with various patterns using the wooden shapes that I had as well as drilling holes that you would need to avoid. On maze #4, I used a hole punch on some address labels that I had in the office and stuck the small self adhesive circles from the hole punch in various places prior to painting it with the hydrophobic paint to create "traps" for the water droplets. I later decided to build a more complex maze on my computer and decided to print it out to help in cutting and placing the pieces in the correct locations.

Step 3: Build Your Maze

For the more complex maze, I used a utility knife to cut the small wood pieces and quickly sanded the ends smooth before gluing them in place. For this one, I found that it was easiest to print the maze out and use that to mark the length of each piece prior to cutting and placing them. You can add glue from the bottle if you like but I found it was easier and quicker just to dip the bottom edge of each piece into a small bowl of glue using tweezers.

Step 4: Add Sides

Once the maze was completed, I added some side rails using some 1/2" X 1/4" wood pieces that I had in the shop.

Step 5: Paint Your Maze (optional)

The "Never Wet" paint will leave a "frosted" or white residue over the top of your project. I decided to paint the final maze white before adding the hydrophobic coating just to help make the residue less noticeable. You will also notice in the pictures that the hydrophobic paint also tends to highlight any areas that have a coating of glue due to the difference in texture of the surface. The white paint helps hide this but as you will notice, even the one painted white looks like the paint is cracked and peeling. This tends to be one of the characteristics of this paint. I am going to try adding a few more coats to see if I can get it to look better, even though it works really well as is. Follow the instructions on the cans as this is a two part process that must be adhered to in order for it to work properly.

Step 6: Apply Hydrophobic Coating

Follow the instructions on the Never Wet product as this is a two part process that must be adhered to in order for it to work properly.

Step 7: Just Add Water......

Once your hydrophobic coating has sufficiently dried according to the manufactures instructions, add a small bead of water to the top of your maze using a pipette, syringe, water dropper or even a straw. You will see that the water will bead up and roll around just as a small plastic bead would since the water will not adhere tot he surface of your maze.

Have fun!

Water Contest

Runner Up in the
Water Contest