Big Hero 6 Science Fun Inspired by Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago
Do you love Disney’s Big Hero 6 as much as I do? It’s exciting, adventurous, and features two super smart and highly capable STEM girls. That’s why I’m shining this week’s STEM Girl Friday spotlight on the movie’s Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago. I’m also sharing science and STEM exploration activities inspired by the pair. You can meet the full team of heroes in the video at the bottom of this post.
Honey Lemon is an enthusiast chemical engineering student who loves to mix things up. And by things, I mean chemicals, of course. She knows the periodic table like the back of her hand and creates balls of polymers designed to stop the bad guys in their tracks. According to her official Disney bio Honey may be as sweet as her namesake, but she has a fire in her belly and a can-do attitude that make her pretty much unstoppable.
GoGo Tomago is an industrial design and mechanical engineering student. She’s tough, athletic and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist. Popping bubble gum and delivering well-placed sarcasm are totally her speed.
It’s notable that these STEM Girls are two of only a handful of featured Disney females who don’t have an onscreen love interest. Regardless of which character your daughter identifies with most strongly, they can both inspire her to dig into science and explore exciting engineering concepts. (This is fun stuff for boys, too!)
Honey Lemon’s Potions
I’m certain that Honey Lemon’s parents (or maybe favorite teacher or librarian) introduced her to oobleck at a young age and its hooked her on chemistry. In her current life as a crime-fighting student, she might mix up pressurized balls of the stuff that smack on contact and then ooze all over the criminal.
Here’s how you make oobleck
Mix together roughly one cup of water and 1.5 or so cups of cornstarch in a medium sized-bowl. You’ll wind up with a non-Newtonian fluid that acts like a solid under pressure and a liquid when it’s not subjected to pressure. Quickly tap down hard on your mixture with your finger, a fist, or other object. Did you feel the surface resist your touch? Now place your finger on the surface and let it gently sink down into the fluid.
Next, scoop up a handful and squeeze it tightly as you make a strong superhero fist. Then relax your hand and watch it ooze down between your fingers. It feels like magic, but it’s science!
We added food coloring to our oobleck to make it as colorful as Honey Lemon’s outfits. The coloring won’t dissipate as it does in water. In fact, barely permeates the top layer. Build those fine motor skills and mix it in by hand.
Oobleck can last up to a week if you keep it in a sealed container and only play with it when your hands are clean. It’s best to toss your used mixture in the trash. If you send it down a drain be sure to dilute it with a lot of water or you may be calling in a plumber soon.
Acid + Base = Chemical Reaction
Honey Lemon used to sneak into the kitchen at night to mix together vinegar (an acid) and baking soda (a base). She never tired of the gentle fizz they create.
You can easily replicate this and scale this reaction up or down. I used to hand my boys a (clean) plastic egg tray filled with a spoonful of baking soda in 10 or so of the indentations. I’d fill the remainders with white vinegar, provide each boy with an eyedropper, and set them free to create the fizzy explosions at will. Bonus: vinegar and baking soda are both basic household cleaning supplies, so no worries if anything spills onto your table or floor.
If you want to go full-on Honey Lemon superhero, make a baking soda bomb using an old 35 mm film canister (what? you don’t have a stockpile of these for this very reason?), pop-top prescription bottle or even a small ziptop bag.
Fill your container about 1/3 of the way with vinegar, create a small paper packet for the baking soda by rolling or folding a small piece of paper around it. Drop the packet into the liquid, quickly seal the container and give it a shake as you toss it aside. You’re just going for a bit drama, like popping or the lid, but this can create a more powerful explosion, so stay clear and break out the goggles to demonstrate good safety protocol. This is best done as an outdoor activity, by the way.
GoGo Tomago’s Maglev Exploration
GoGo Tamago fuels her need for speed by building an electromagnetic propulsion, or maglev (magnetic levitation) bicycle. We’re going to do something simpler. If you don’t have a supply of magnets in your makerspace, pick some up on the cheap during your next trip to the craft or hardware store. Some Maker Mom readers are fans of Magformers for magnet-based construction and play. I have a box of random magnets with an old set or two of Geomags mixed in.
Two points of caution with magnets: many are small and may pose a choking hazard to small children/curious pets, keep strong magnets away from your favorite electronics lest they get ruined.)
Distribute the magnets, the more the merrier, and let the kids play around with them. Without any explanation from you, the kids will figure out that magnets can attract and repel depending on their relative positions. Feel free to explain the basics up front or wait for them to ask. Even better, ask them why they think the magnets can attract or repel.
You can demonstrate maglev with just two ring magnets and a pencil.
Rumor has that GoGo Tomago’s fascination with electromagnet propulsion began with this basic demonstration! Hold the pencil upright or stick it in a piece of foam to keep it that way. Slide the magnets onto the pencil so that they repel one another. Observe the “magical” floating ring. What happens if you try to force them together?
Take things to the next step with an electromagnet. I know it’s pretty easy to make an electromagnet at home. In fact, I have a sheet with DIY instructions that’s been sitting in my “fun things to do with the kids” pile for approximately 10 years now. (I wish I was kidding.) So in absence of having one to show off right now, I’m going to suggest a few kits to help you explore maglev and electromagnets.
As promised, you can meet the Big Hero 6 team, including Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago at the bottom of this post. I hope Disney has a Big Hero 6 science book in the works. In the meantime, I’d love to know what STEM explorations it’s inspiring in your house, school, or library!