Parents, Educators & Engineers

Sky Glider

Download Project Guide

English PDF (596K)
Spanish PDF (665K)

YOUR CHALLENGE

Design and build a blimp that flies as straight and far as possible.

MATERIALS

For each team:

  • Sky Floater balloons
  • clear tape
  • copier paper
  • scissors
  • small paper clips

For each launching station:

  • 2 sheets of corrugated cardboard (approx. 11 x 17 inches)
  • duct tape
  • rubber bands
  • paper clips

BRAINSTORM

  • Think about shape. What are some things that are streamlined to cut easily through air or water?
  • To reduce drag and move efficiently through the air, which face of a balloon should face forward?
  • What could you use to firmly hold two balloons in this orientation?

DESIGN AND BUILD

  • Make a neutrally buoyant blimp out of two balloons. What’s a good distance between balloons so your blimp tracks straight? (Hint: you can use other materials, like a paper tube, to connect the balloons.)
  • Weight is key. How to reduce it? Where to put it? How to balance it?
  • Use a rubber band-powered launching station to get your blimps moving.
  • Get your blimps to fly straight and far by streamlining them and lengthening their axis of rotation. (In our testing, students found that fins helped a blimp glide straight.)

TEST AND REDESIGN

Keep these points in mind as the blimps fly.

  • Use the same launcher, start the blimp at the same position, and use the same launch technique every time.
  • Record the distance of each test flight and how straight the blimp went.
  • After each test, think about ways to improve your design. Record the changes you made and their effects.