Hot air balloon lab elevates learning for physics students

Students in Physics 1410 Elementary Physics are making “hot air balloons.”   In groups, students use a careful construction of plastic straws, short birthday candles, and plastic trash bags to create each balloon.  Since fire and dripping wax are involved with this project, safety precautions are taken first. Once candles are lit, there is lift off!  

Professor Kimberly Bouldin says this is one of her favorite labs.  

“The hot air balloon lab demonstrates the physics of floating objects,” she says. “While students learn about the buoyant force and Archimedes’ Principle.”  

Physics 1410 is a four-hour course for non-science majors.  Bouldin says the goal of the class is to teach students about the world around them.  

“We have an air-powered rocket that we take outside and launch to study projectile motion and free fall,” she says.  “We also make marble roller coasters to study the conservation of energy, and we have an egg-drop contest when we study elastic and inelastic collisions.” 

Two sections of the class are offered in the fall and one in the spring. 

All photos in this gallery were taken by students in COMM 1316 News Photography.

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