Forces Theme:  Balloon Rockets

    A rocket is a very powerful engine. It takes a lot of "thrust" for it to "blast off" into space. It must be powerful enough to overcome the earth's gravity and lift off.
    Pretend that your balloon is a rocket. Imagine it is "blast off" time. Fill it with air. Let your balloon go. What happened? What made your balloon "lift off" into space?
    How does your rocket compare with the "lift off" of a real rocket? How well did your rocket overcome the earth's gravity?
    Share your ideas with the group. Try blowing up several balloons and have balloon rocket races. Which balloon rockets won? Why? Can you predict how high, how far, and how fastyour balloon rocket will travel?
    Now design the "ultimate" balloon rocket that will go the highest, the farthest, and the fastest. Challenge others with your finest design.


Teacher Briefing:
The purpose of this design brief is to help
students understand the principles used in launching rockets.

Materials for This Activity:  (Optional)
Balloons, a classroom set of varying sizes and shapes
Measuring devices, (yardsticks, tape measures, rulers)
Pictures and newspaper articles, featuring rocket launchings
Video tape of a rocket launch
Video tape player

Suggestions for Implementation:

1. Orientation. Show students a video tape of a space-rocket
launch, or plan this activity on the day of a "live" launch. Question students on the principles applied in launching a rocket. Do they understand "lift," "speed," and "gravity?"

2. Experimentation. Give each child a choice of balloons of
various sizes. Allow them time to experiment with "launching" their rockets. Encourage them to theorize as to the propulsion properties necessary to achieve the fastest, the highest, and the
farthest launched rocket.

3. Observations. What happens to the balloon when the air is let out? Why is the balloon's neck downward during flight? What makes the balloon fly? Try to answer these questions.

4. Collaboration. Assign students in small groups, two to four
students per group. Have each group share by demonstrating their
discoveries. Then have each group design the "ultimate" balloon
rocked based on the group's collective findings.

5. Try It Out. Have small groups present their theories and designs to the class. Follow presentation with a public launching. Invite other classes to join the "rocket launching"

Enhancing Other Concepts and Skills:

1. Social Studies. Have students research the history of rocket launches. Collect NASA phamplets on rocket launches. Share the information gathered with the class as a time line, "The History of Rocket Launches."

2. Math. Data can be gathered from each launch. Then ask the students to plot the height and distance of each launch on a graph.

3. Balloon Principles. Ask how a balloon works? (The air that was blown into the balloon rushes out of the opening. As the air pushes through the balloons' neck, it pushes the balloon forward.)

4. Rocket Principles. Ask how a rocket works like a balloon? (A rocket works like a balloon. It is pushed by gases that are made from burning rocket fuel. The gases rush out the rocket's
exhaust and push the rocket forward.)

5. Rocket Investigation. Find library and other information on rocket propulsion. Share your findings with the class.