Thursday, February 5, 2015

In the Lab 2015 Balloon Racers

Yesterday we were in the lab for Science again! This time we were taking a challenge on Balloon Powered cars...I took it one step forward and called them balloon powered racers, because they were going to race them against one another. Since we were just working on robots, we decided to use the mindstorms LEGOS instead of hauling up enormous bins of LEGOS. We knew these would do the job. The instructions were simple...there were none. I told them to get creative and make sure a balloon would be able to drive the car. That was it.
The kids all looked at me as though I were crazy, they demanded a photo, wanted to see videos of races, needed to make a blueprint...I told them that they would get none of that and needed to get to work. They had their objective and they had to make it come to life. I saw them hesitate for a bit before they dove right in. I showed them where they would race and told them they have 35 minutes to build and rest their racers before we would begin the final race.
I saw many cars built, rebuilt, tested, tried, taken apart. I saw them second guess themselves and almost give up, I saw the kids try and copy each other and then try out their own thing. They were elated when an idea worked and disappointed when it didn't, they were crushed when their cars were too weak to handle a race but were happy it wasn't the final race yet.
It was finally time for the final races and they were not ready, or so they thought. They kept questioning their decisions and asking questions, but the time for racing had arrived. They had to blow up their balloons and have them ready to let go and race. They went one at a time and when their car stopped, they added a piece of electrical tape to the line where they stopped before the next person went. Each person got the option of racing 2 times or keeping their first distance if they liked it.
The Science Behind It:
The science behind it all is pretty simple, but that doesn't make it any less exciting when it all works out! First blow up your balloon, attach it to your racer and then place it at the starting point and let the balloon go, escaping air from the balloon rushes out of the balloon causing propulsion (the action of driving or pushing forward.) The principle at work is Newton's Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For the Balloon Powered Car, the action is the air rushing out of the balloon once the opening is released. The reaction is the movement of the car forward. The moving Balloon Racer has kinetic energy, but even an object that isn't moving has energy. This energy is called potential energy. The potential energy of the car is in the elastic material of the balloon. As the balloon fills with air, it builds more potential energy (more air, more energy). As the air flows from the balloon, it changes to kinetic energy. This is the conservation of energy.
After discussing the Science of it all, the winners were announced and the lesson didn't end. They wanted to try again and alter their vehicles and then debate on how full the balloon should be for maximum ride. This was another day in the lab that was full of fun but a lot of thinking!
1st Place - Car at the top belonging to 7 year old!
2nd place - Car in te middle belonging to 9 year old!
3rd place - Car at the bottom belonging to 10 year old!
This was definitely a lesson in age not being a factor and those lessons are the very best, it teaches the older children that they will not always come in first and the younger ones that they too can be winners!
Enjoy every minute my friends!!

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