STEAM at Home: Balloon Rockets

This week’s STEAMonday project introduces some basic concepts of rocket science by turning a balloon into a rocket.


  • Balloon
  • Origami Paper

First step is to take your balloon, blow it up, and release it. Watch it fly through the air with a random trajectory.

  • What is a rocket? A rocket is simply a container full of fuel, with a nozzle that will slowly release the fuel, sending an object in the air.
  • Is a balloon a rocket? Absolutely! It is a container, full of fuel (your hot air to be exact, or CO2 which is a gas), with a small nozzle that will release the gas slowly to send the balloon through the air.
  • Why is a balloon a bad rocket? Because it flies around like crazy!
  • What can we do to a balloon to control it’s direction?

The next lesson of rocket science is the fins of a rocket. The fins help stabilize the rocket to keep it flying straight. Our project today will be to add fins to a balloon to help stabilize its flight path to be more rocket-like.

Second step: origami water bomb base.
We are going to take a piece of origami paper and make a water bomb base. You can watch the video I made or find a video online to show you how to do this. Try not to use heavy paper, this is why origami paper is best if you have it. If not, then take a piece of printer paper, fold it in half and cut it. Then fold a triangle piece out of it and cut out a square. This will give you a light enough piece of paper, but it’s not as good as origami paper and you will have some difficulties like the one I had in the video.

Once you have folded the water bomb base, cut a “+” in the center. Not too big, just big enough to fit the nozzle of the balloon through. Then push the nozzle of the balloon through it. Blow up your balloon with your gas and hold the nozzle closed. Then try to fix the fins, the paper tends to flatten out during this process. Once you are satisfied, let your balloon fly. It should fly in a straighter path. If the paper is too heavy for lift off, use your mouth as a launch pad by leaning your head back, this helps.

You will see that your balloon flies straighter, but much slower. Why do you think this is?
The paper is weighing it down. This is one of the most difficult and expensive parts of rocketry. When sending a shuttle into space you see that there are several rockets that fall off the space shuttle, these are gas tanks. The gas and tanks weigh so much that they have to use extra gas and tanks to get the shuttle into space. This is one of the biggest expenses in space travel. SpaceX has worked incredibly hard on creating rockets that self land on launch pads to save money in this process. Here is a video of this historic moment.

To learn more about Rocketry, check out this book from the Library – Make: Rockets: Down to Earth Rocket Science, by Mike Westerfeld.

This is everything I know about rocket science.

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Categories: Featured, Homepage Kids, Homepage Teens, Kids, Library News, and Teens.

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