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Balloon Powered Car Project

This is an in-class partner project with an individual/partner write-up. Materials are gathered from group members to build the balloon powered car. The goal is to apply what we've learned about motion and forces by building a rocket car that minimizes friction and drag. During testing, we will calculate average speed and take many measurements. We will then analyze the motion and forces involved in our cars. The most challenging aspect of this project is collaborating with others. Every group member must contribute their ideas BEFORE construction of their rocket car. Another challenge is the actual construction of the car. You will run in to some technical issues (car turns, balloon drags on ground, parts fall off your car, or it just doesn't work at all!) that will require more collaboration with your group to solve.


  • Design and build a car, powered only by 2 balloons, that minimizes backward force and increases forward force.
  • Calculate Speed of the car using the formula:

    Speed = Distance ÷ Time

  • Make Distance vs. Time and Speed vs. Time graphs.
  • Analyze the graphs (show how the slope describes your car's motion).
  • Draw force arrow diagrams to show forces involved in moving your car.

Testable Question

Which balloon-powered car design will travel 5 meters the fastest?
Which balloon-powered car design will travel the farthest?

Project Sequence

  1.  Group Collaboration
    • Complete Car Project Brainstorm.
    • Collect Materials.
  2. Car Construction
    • Bring your own materials.  The teacher will only provide you with balloons.
  3. Testing
    • Use stopwatches to measure time to complete 5 meters.
    • Calculate average speed of your car, and speed for each meter section of the track.
    • Test for maximum distance.
    • Take pictures and video.
  4. Data Processing with Spreadsheet
    • Create Distance vs. Time and Speed vs. Time graphs.
    • Class Speed Data Table and Graph
  5. Create Presentation
    • Experiment Details
    • Experiment Results (from spreadsheet)
    • Data and Graph Analysis
    • Force Arrow Diagrams
    • Conclusion
  6. Create Podcast
    • Use your presentation, pictures and video to create a Podcast of your project - BROADCAST TO THE WORLD!


Homework                             30 pts.
Classwork                            350 pts.
Multimedia Presentation        250 pts.
Test Points                          120 pts.
Total                                    750 pts.

Helpful Links

Balloon Car Contest at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Project Rules & Guidelines

You will be provided with two 9-inch balloons in class.  You may not use any other balloons.  You must gather ALL OTHER MATERIALS yourself.

  • The car can only be powered by 2 balloons (provided by teacher).
  • You can build the car out of anything (except wheels).
  • The car must have at least 3 wheels.
  • The wheels cannot be wheels from a toy car. The wheels must be made out of something that was not originally meant to be wheels.
  • The car may not leave the ground.
  • The car must travel at least 5 meters.

Car Testing

  • Premeasure a distance of 5 meters.
  • One car will race at a time. One team member prepares the car at the starting line.
  • Cars take off at "Go!" Timers start.
  • Time will be taken twice at 1m, 2m, 3m, 4m, 5m, and at car stop (total run time).
  • Cars continue past the finish line until they stop.
  • Measure total distance traveled.
  • Each car will be allowed three trial runs only if necessary.  This allows a second or third chance if the car turns, balloon pinches, etc.  If the car makes a successful run, we will use this data - more trials will not be neccessary.

Project Documents


2008 Pictures

2008 Performance

Subpages (1): 2008 Pictures