Friday, August 16, 2013

Balloon Rockets

While cleaning out some large storage baskets we usually use for backpacks and school stuff (prepping for the new school year to start), we found a bag of unused party balloons.  I had seen something on pinterest about making balloons into rockets with just a few items like string and tape and thought this might be a good day to get "science-y".  Not only did we learn about action, reaction, force, and propulsion, we also had a ton of fun.  

Balloon Rockets!
 Here's what you will need to make your own:

String or yarn
Tape ($1 store duct tape worked best)
Large-eyed needle
Bamboo skewer
Two chairs or two places to tie string between 

First, cut off the bendy end of the straw so you have just a straight piece left

Take your string or yarn and thread the large-eyed needle.  Place the needle in the tip of the straw.  Use the bamboo skewer to push the needle down the straw until it comes out the other end.

The bamboo skewer is the KEY to getting this floppy yarn through the straw.  It will save you much frustration.
Take a wide piece of $1 store duct tape about 5 inches long and place it over the middle of the straw.

Now you want to tie your yarn off in two place and make sure the string is very taut between the two points.  We used our stairs and a door knob.

You can also use two chairs, or two objects outside if the weather is nice.  The two points we selected also had different elevations.  The stairs connection was higher than the door knob finish line.

Now came the part where we blow up our first balloon

It's important to color coordinate your balloon with your current outfit, right?
Now the trickiest part comes (and it helps to have two sets of hands here) but while squeezing the end of the balloon and not letting any air escape, gently attach the wide duct tape to the top of the balloon. 

Make sure the balloon is facing the direction you want to launch it, with the "exhaust" blower in the back and the round part of the balloon facing forward.  After that... you are ready to activate the launch sequence.... 3...2...1...

"Huston, we are a GO for blast off"

When it reaches the end of it's ride, it will look floppy and sad.  But the nice thing is the $1 store duct tape holds onto the balloon in the right place and you are ready to launch again

Well you can't have three kids and only one balloon rocket.  So we set up another launching path

We made track #2 at a lower elevation so we could have rocket RACES!
Again.  It is important to color coordinate your attire and balloon color...

My middle child thought that a larger balloon would travel faster. We found out that a larger balloon would have traveled farther (if our string had been longer) but it launched at the same speed as the purple balloon.  The only bonus was that the pink balloon would reach the end of the track and still have some air left over.  It would spin around and make that satisfying raspberry sound, which spurned on even more giggles.  After that we had an afternoon of zipping and racing.  It was a rocket balloon extravaganza!


Ready, set, GO!

Oh and P.S., by the way, here's a bonus tip: Don't forget to cut down your strings if you have them precariously strung through your house as we did.  Otherwise, it turns into one of those laser security gymnastics "mission impossible" limbo games just to open the front door...

I picture Catherine Zeta Jones in a skin tight leotard leaping over and under the laser wires....
This was a fun and easy game, the girls just loved it.  I've also heard you can use those longer oblong balloons if you want to try for something a little more aerodynamic.  We might just attempt those next time. I also saw some bonus plans for a rocket balloon car made out of a water bottle.  I'll keep you posted.  Hey, let us know if you make some balloon rockets for your kids or grandkids and how they turned out.

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