Potato chip can pinhole camera: A homeschool science project
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Because you can’t eat just one, a can of potato chips often disappears faster than you can say “Pringles.” Here’s one homeschool science project that you can make using the can that holds those chips together: a potato chip can pinhole camera.
Empty potato chip can
black construction paper or aluminum foil
safety pin or thumb tack
Instructions (Warning: Adult supervision necessary when using the box cutter):
- Remove the lid from the potato chip can and clean the inside of the can thoroughly. Do not throw away the lid. You will need it for this project.
- Draw a line around the can approximately two inches up from the bottom.
- Cut along the line. You will now have two pieces of the tube: a shorter piece and a longer piece.
- Prepare the plastic lid for use as a screen. Cut a piece of tissue paper (wax paper or vellum paper will also do the trick) to cover the lid.
- Put the plastic lid onto the shorter piece of the tube.
- Attach the longer piece to the shorter piece, keeping the plastic lid in between. Secure all the pieces together with tape.
- Using a thumbtack or safety pin, poke a tiny hole in the center of the metal bottom of the tube.
- Wrap the entire body of the tube in black construction paper. This will keep light out of the tube, so that light only enters through the pinhole. Aluminum foil works best, but we had ran out of it, so we used black construction paper instead.
- Go outside and peer through the open end of the camera (the eyepiece). Make sure to cup your hands around the eyepiece to block the light and keep the tube as dark as possible.
Images in the potato chip can pinhole camera will appear inverted both vertically and horizontally. This is because light travels in a straight line.
As light passes through the pinhole (aperture), the top and bottom rays converge in the pinhole and leave in a straight line. Therefore, the top rays pass through the hole, continue in a straight line and end up at the bottom. The bottom rays pass through the hole, continue in a straight line, and end up at the top. Light rays around the image behave similarly, thereby inverting the image you see in the potato chip can pinhole camera.