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Balloon Rockets

What's it all about?

We all know that if you let go of a blown-up balloon it flies around the room making a rude sound. But can we use a balloon in a more controlled way to power a 'rocket' guided on a piece of string? It sounds easy, but you have to think carefully if you want to make a fast, long distance rocket instead of a stationary rude thing.

Are you ready for the challenge?

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A famous photo of blowing up a balloon

Photo of balloon rocket ready to go - select to enlarge

Photo of another rocket in construction - select to enlarge

 

Student notes

Use the equipment given to you to make a balloon rocket. Your rocket should travel as far as possible along the string guideline. Take care: the winner is the rocket that travels the furthest (however quickly or slowly).

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Teacher notes

This is easy and fun. The main problem is how to stop the air coming out of the balloon too fast. This is where the drinking straws and paper clips help. The string must be tight, and free of knots. Nearly all groups will burst some balloons in the building and testing stages, so have some extras handy. We usually make it a timed exercise (how long depends on how they are getting along with the problem). Beware of howls of protest when the students remember it doesn’t matter how fast it goes, only how far!

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Technician notes

Per group of students:

4 x balloons
4 x drinking straws
4 x paper clips
1 x roll of sticky tape
1 x pair of scissors
2 x A4 sheets of card
2m piece of string

In the lab:

Spare string and balloons

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