Rocket balloons are always a hit with their screaming and spirited flight patterns. Narrow air holes give them powerful and long-lasting propulsion energy while the odd shapes make them fly in erratic ways making them as unpredictable as living creatures. Children love the unpredictable nature and will fly them for a long time.
1. Take a balloon
2. Inflate it
3. Point it upwards to fly
4. Retrieve; repeat
5. Always clean up broken and popped balloon carcasses
1. Rocket Balloons
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How to present it to your group:
1. This is primarily a way to have fun outdoors but it is always good to point out the physics of propulsion and the aerodynamics of shape. The balloon flies so far and so fast because the hole where the air escapes is small and so the pressurized air being released creates energy. The balloon flies in crazy patterns because of the shape (the long balloon often has a slight arc that will steer it and spin it.
2. This activity is best done in an open space so that balloons are not eaten by trees. Meadow grass can also pop balloons but it is great fun to launch your balloon parallel to the ground and watch it creep along the ground.
3. Be sure to have extra balloons because you will lose quite a few.
What sets these balloons apart from regular balloons is the small air opening and the irregular and oblong shape of the balloon. Children learn that trapped air exerts pressure, pushing the balloon along. They will also notice that air escap- ing through the small opening often creates sound much like human whistling. The irregular shape creates random flight patterns unlike a straight glider plane or our balloon on a straight fishing line experiment.
Your youngsters will be thrilled by the rocket balloons. If you do this indoors, you can sit in a circle and explain how trapped air can create power. Blow a balloon up, assign one person to stand up to follow it and pick it up when it lands. Repeat for everyone in the group. If your group is larger than 12 it is better to split the group up. Outdoors you can blow balloons up and hand them to children in turn. Having more adults makes this an easier job. Some children will need help figuring out how to pinch the balloon shut before letting it go.
Vocabulary: Velocity, air pressure, physics of flight, sound