Video games, television, cell phones…. Kids today are surrounded by electronics.
Simple STEM activities are a fun way to pull kids away from all those gadgets and get them excited about building and experimenting.
This balloon boat STEM challenge is engaging and simple enough for kids to do on their own.
We had so much fun with the build a boat that floats challenge, that we couldn’t wait to try some other STEM activities with boats.
This project makes bathtime more fun. It’s also perfect when you are stuck inside on a rainy day.
Balloon Boat STEM Challenge
- Disposable Plastic Container
- Bendable Plastic Drinking Straw
- Bathtub or Large Plastic Container
Start by using the tip of your scissors to make a small hole in one end of your plastic container. It should be centered along the bottom edge. Try to make the hole close to the width of your drinking straw.
Thread the short end of your straw through the hole you made so that the short end rests inside the container.
Stretch your balloon and blow it up a few times. This will help make it easier to blow up once your boat is finished.
Slide the neck of the balloon onto the short end of your straw. Then wrap a piece of tape tightly around the balloon’s neck and secure it to the straw.
Decorate your boat if desired.
You can use permanent markers, stickers, or colorful duct tape to decorate the plastic container. Be careful not to accidentally tape the balloon to the boat!
Now it’s time to test out your boat.
Fill the bathtub or a large shallow plastic container with 6 inches of water.
Blow through the free end of your straw and fill up your balloon with air.
Pinch the neck of your balloon to keep the air from escaping.
Set your boat in the water. Make sure the straw is bent down so the free end of the straw is just below the water’s surface.
Let go of your balloon and watch as your boat moves across the water.
Why does the balloon powered boat work?
The inflated balloon has potential energy, which changes to kinetic energy when you release the balloon and the boat moves.
Making a balloon-powered boat is a great example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
As the air in the balloon rushes out through the straw, it pushes against the water. This propels the boat forward in the opposite direction.
Extensions for the Balloon Boat STEM Challenge
- Does the length of the straw affect the boat? Try cutting the straw shorter.
- How does the amount of air in the balloon affect the boat’s journey? Blow the balloon up as much as possible. Then try filling it only half way.
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