Everything in the universe takes one of two forms: energy and matter. This experiment explores the idea that energy can never be created or destroyed, but it can transform. All the different forms of energy (heat, electrical, nuclear, sound etc.) can be broken down into two categories, potential and kinetic energy.

Think of potential energy the “could” energy. The battery “could” power the flashlight. The light “could” turn on. I “could” make a sound. That ball “could” fall off the wall. That candy bar “could” give me energy. Potential energy is the energy that something has that can be released. For example, the battery has the potential energy to light the bulb of the flashlight if the flashlight is turned on and the energy is released from the battery. Your legs have the potential energy to make you hop up and down if you want to release that energy (like you do whenever it’s time to do science!). The fuel in a gas tank has the potential energy to make the car move.

Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. Kinetic energy is an expression of the fact that a moving object can do work on anything it hits; it describes the amount of work the object could do as a result of its motion. Whether something is zooming, racing, spinning, rotating, speeding, flying, or diving… if it’s moving, it has kinetic energy. How much energy it has depends on two important things:  how fast it’s going and how much it weighs.

We’re utilizing the elasticity of the rubber band to store potential energy to fling the ball around the room. The potential energy in the rubber band is transformed into kinetic energy of the moving ball when you hit the trigger to release the rubber band.