The Challenge

To design and construct a balloon-powered hover craft that will travel the furthest distance possible in one direction.

What you need:

  • 1 plastic lid cover from a coffee can, ice cream bucket or similar container
  • 6 drinking straws
  • 50 cm of duct tape
  • 3 round balloons (the inflated circumference should not exceed 100 cm)
  • 1 sheet of 21.6 cm x 27.9 cm (8.5" x 11") construction paper
  • 2 rubber bands

What to do:

The materials listed above should be the ONLY materials used in the construction of your hover craft. However, you do not have to use all of the materials suggested in its construction. The challenge of this activity is to harness the potential energy of inflated balloons, and use that energy to lift and propel a plastic lid along the floor in a designated direction.

Remember, regardless of the balloon's size, once inflated, the circumference should not exceed 100 cm. Once the hover craft has been launched, do not touch it until the balloons have fully deflated and the craft comes to a stop.

Record the distance traveled from start to stop. If the hover craft does not travel in a straight path, measure only the distance it traveled along the original path you chose. It is best to perform this activity in an area of ample space.

Repeat the run a couple of times, measuring the distance traveled along the designated path each time. Determine if there is a way to modify the craft's construction by altering the combination of materials used from the suggested list, or by inflating the balloons to various circumferences (remember not to exceed 100 cm). Can you design the craft to travel further by implementing these alterations? The test is yours to take.

The following activity is reprinted with the permission of Jim Kreuger, Program Consultant, Kivalliq Divisional Education Council, Baker Lake, Nunavut