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Cartesian Diver

Source Institutions

    Twin Cities Public Television

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Cartesian Diver

In this quick activity (page 1 of the PDF under SciGirls Activity: California Fish), learners will build a simple Cartesian Diver in an empty 2-liter bottle. Use this activity to demonstrate the principle of buoyancy, similar to the bladder system many fish rely on to move up and down in their watery environment. Relates to the linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: California Fish.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • an empty 2-liter soda bottle, with screw-top cap
  • water
  • a pen cap
  • small wad of clay
  • optional: fast food packets of mustard, ketchup, or mayonnaise


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Ocean Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Food and Cooking
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Highlights STEM opportunities for this group
    • Identifies role models or mentors in STEM fields from this group
    • Uses inclusive images of people from this group


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection:

  • DragonflyTV


  • All Rights Reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., ©2006

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 436260


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