No known volcanoes exist in upstate New York. But that hasn’t stopped researchers there from studying lava by making their own molten rock in an outdoor lab!

To create homemade lava, Jeff Karson, a geologist at Syracuse University, teamed up with sculptor Robert Wysocki. The two use a bathtub-sized furnace to heat crushed pieces of basalt, or volcanic rock, to about 1,400°C (2,550°F). Once the rock melts, they pour the red-hot lava down a slope onto ice, sand, or water.

Karson studies how the lava flows at different angles and when it contacts different materials. These tests could help scientists predict how lava might behave during a real eruption. Wysocki also uses the lava—to make sculptures. “We work together,” Karson says. “It’s incredibly fun.”