Portable Potable Pressure

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In this activity, learners use plastic water bottles, wood, and water to build an inexpensive and portable tool to demonstrate one atmosphere of pressure at sea level. Once the tool is assembled learners use it to explore atmospheric pressure and how humans respond to this pressure on Earth. This resource includes optional extensions to investigate non-metric units and atmospheric pressure on Venus, Mars, and in the deep ocean.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • 1 inch square by 2 to 3 feet long piece of wood
  • 4 2-liter plastic bottles (or 2 2-liter and 2 1.5-liter plastic bottles) all bottles must be empty, clean and dry
  • Duct tape
  • Water
  • Massing scale
  • Graduated cylinder


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
      • Atmosphere
    • Solar System
      • The Planets
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Muller, Eric


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2004