Balloon or Bust

Good evening scientists! Today my little scientist learned an important lesson, sometimes science investigations don’t go to plan. We as scientists must continue on and try to solve the problem in new creative ways. Post it notes and silly putty were both happy accidents discovered on the journey to something else. Our first 2 attempts were a bust, but the next two worked much better. It was fun trying out different cars and seeing what would happen.



Various Toy Cars (Try to get different sized wheels and weights)

Tape (We used masking tape)


Binder Clip


**Warning balloons may break when blowing them up. Please use caution, broken balloons may pose a choking hazard to small children. Please fully supervise your child**

  1. Blow up your balloon and twist clip with a binder clip to hold in the air until your are ready to test.Balloon or Bust (4)
  2. Tape your balloon to your chosen car (Make sure that the wheels still turn)Balloon or Bust (11)
  3. Find a smooth surface that is clear of obstacles and unclip the binder clip while holding the end of the balloon closed. Countdown and release the air from your balloon. Watch to see what happens.
  4. Try different combinations with your little scientist to see what works best
    • More air or less air in the balloon
    • Lighter car or heavier car
    • Try the same size car with different sized wheels
    • Move the balloon to the front of the car, middle, or back.

Talking Points

This investigation is a great way to test out different factors that might affect a toy cars ability to move forward. Our balloon powered toy car demonstrates potential energy, kinetic energy, friction, and Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Potential Energy is the energy stored up in an object. In our experiment the full balloon contained potential energy. As you released the air from the balloon the potential energy was changed into kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. In our experiment energy was not created nor destroyed it just changed form this is The Law of Conservation of Energy. Our balloon powered toy car eventually stops, tips forward or simply may not have moved at all. The reason for this was friction. Friction is what happens when two objects move or slide past one another, it causes the kinetic energy to transform into thermal energy. Thermal energy is a fancy way of saying heat. When you rub your hands together you will feel them heat up, this is due to friction. Our toy car experiences friction as the wheels move across the floor, causing the balloon powered car to slow down and stop once the balloon (power source) runs out of air.

The balloon is able to “blast off” because of Newton’s Laws of Motion. Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object at rest will remain at rest, and an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. In our experiment the toy car is resting or sitting still until the air inside the balloon is released. The air releasing causes the toy car to move. Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. In our experiment the air coming out of the balloon causes the balloon to toy car to move in an equal but opposite direction.

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