Craft Stick Chain Reaction

Chain reactions are amazing displays of energy. When everything is set up right, one little tap can cause a cascade of action, like a single domino knocking over a chain of thousands. Try this experiment to make a huge chain reaction out of just a few craft sticks!

  1. Ages: 5 - 16

  2. 30 minutes - 1 hour

  3. Messy

  4. Grownup needed

Materials you'll need

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    Gather your materials. Then, place two craft sticks on a long table in the shape of an “X”.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    Stick a third craft stick underneath the end of the craft stick in the top left corner. Make sure to hold down the “X” shape as you do this and for the following steps!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Tip

    If you let go of the “X”, the chain reaction will start too early and you’ll have to start over.

  • Step 3

    Stick a fourth craft stick underneath the end of the craft stick in the bottom right corner.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    Stick a fifth craft stick underneath the end of the craft stick to the immediate left of the craft stick in the top right corner.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Tip

    At this point, you need to change which “X” shape you’re holding down. Move your hand to the “X” you made in Step 3. As you continue to build, keep moving your hand to hold down the newer “X” shapes.

  • Step 5

    Stick a sixth craft stick underneath the end of the craft stick to the immediate left of the craft stick in the bottom right corner.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Step 6

    Continue adding craft sticks in this way until you have either run out of craft sticks or have reached the length you want. We made our chain about two to three feet long.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 6

  • Step 7

    Let go of the “X” and observe what happens.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 7

  • Learn moreMagnifying graphic

    You just witnessed a chain reaction! This happens because of tension in all the craft sticks, which you built up by weaving them together. When you bend a craft stick, the wood fibers it’s made of stretch and flex into a new shape. But just like a piece of rubber or a spring, those fibers don’t want to stay bent — they want to go back to their normal, unstretched shape, and they do if they can. That’s why it’s tough to bend and weave the sticks together, and why you have to hold the “X” shape. A bent craft stick stores that tension, waiting to release it and snap back to normal. By weaving a bunch of craft sticks together in a chain, you store up more and more tension. And when you let go of the “X” at the end, you set off a chain reaction! Each stick quickly returns to its normal shape, and all that released tension flings the sticks into the air.

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