Balloon Jousting STEM Challenge
What is Balloon Jousting?
Balloon jousting is a fun new STEM challenge that asks kids to use problem solving skills to build a balloon popping mechanism that will pop their opponents balloon before their opponent pops their balloon.
Preparation for Balloon Jousting
Set up the jousting track. To start you will need two chairs. Set the chairs about 5-6 feet apart. Cut a 5-6 foot piece of string or wire. Tie one end of the wire or string to a skewer. Slide two standard drinking straws onto the wire and tie the other end to another skewer. If the straws have the optional bend cut it off so that it is just a straight straw. Secure each skewers to a chair. I did this by putting the skewer between the vertical slots in the chair, but tape or tying it works as well.
Prepare the balloons. Blow up a few balloons but do not tie them. Instead twist the end so no air can escape and clip the end shut with a binder clip so no air escapes. In addition to the balloons and binder clips you will need to find a roll of tape per child or group of children and some more long wooden skewers.
How to: Balloon Jousting
- Give each child or group of children a balloon that has been blown up and secured with the binder clip, a roll of tape and some long wooden skewers.
- Challenge children to create a jousting balloon. Have them attach skewers to their balloon using tape. When two kids, or groups of kids feel they have a good design have them attach their balloons to a straw that is on the wire.
- Have the kids unclip and untwist the end of their balloon but hold it so no air escapes until they are ready to joust. Have them count down 3..2...1..go! On go each person or team will release their balloon. The balloons will fly at each other skewers out in an attempt to pop the other balloon. If no balloons pop, have the kid engineers make some alterations to their design and try again.
- After a couple of attempts give the kids or children a new balloon even if theirs does not pop. The balloons get stretched out and do not perform as well after a few tries.
Tips for Balloon Jousting Success
- Limit the number of skewers you give each group and persuade them to limit the amount of tape they use, balloons with a lot of tape and skewers were unsuccessful.
- Make sure kids release the balloon from directly behind the balloon and not off to the side or it will spiral and will not fly in a direct fashion.
- Record the balloons in action. As you can see from the quick video, when you watch the balloons joust in real time it is hard to see what went right and what went wrong. Recording the balloons (I just used my phone) allows you to slow down the video so kids can see what happened and what changes they should make to their design.