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Annual Balloon Car Competition Introduces More Innovative Designs

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Raima Islam '21
27 January 2020

Balloon car competition; photo credit: Raima Islam On Wednesday, January 15th, 2020, Physics and Physics Honors classes held their annual balloon car design competition. Students were tasked with constructing a toy car powered by a balloon. They had the freedom to explore several designs and materials, ranging from water bottle caps to CDs.

The competition continues to present more creative models every year. The goal, however, stays the same: manufacture a car that can travel a distance of at least ten meters as fast as possible. Each class held their own divisional contests throughout the week of January 6th. Cars that traveled over ten meters during the divisional stage were eligible to compete in a finals round.

Balloon car competition; photo credit: Raima Islam The final round included cars made by students from Mr. Kevin Haimowitz and Ms. Elena Shtraks’s Physics and Physics Honors classes that cleared the ten-meter benchmark. The finals were held after school in the second-floor hallway overlooking the Unity Garden, where students from AP Physics assisted by recording times and distances for the cars. 

By the end of the competition, junior Owen Delpiu’s car travelled the furthest distance, 19.5 meters. “My design was inspired by how I want a truck when I’m older,” said Depiu. “I know they must be stable and precise, so I wanted my design to express that.”

Balloon car competition; photo credit: Raima Islam One notable aspect of Delpiu’s design was the use of two balloons as opposed to just one. “I thought that using two balloons would provide the car with more power to propel itself further,” noted Delpiu. 

Coming in second place was fellow junior Crystal Sandoval’s car, traveling 18.27 meters. She attributes her success to how she combatted friction. “What made my car travel so far was the low amount of friction as a result of the CDs and the high amount of force allowing the car to move after the balloon ran out of air,” Sandoval said. 

Balloon car competition; photo credit: Raima Islam Brianna DeLuccia ‘21 came in third with a distance of 18.24 meters. She found that trial and error was the key to perfecting her design. “At first, I tried different techniques with a water bottle and bottle caps but those didn’t work well,” said DeLuccia. “After creating new models, I found that using CDs as wheels worked best to reduce friction. I also made the car really light, which made it travel far as well.”

All students who participated were awarded an honorable mention and enjoyed the experience. 

Ms. Elena Shtraks looks forward to this event every year due to its popularity amongst the students. “It’s a wonderful activity that we’ve been doing for over ten years,” Mrs. Shtraks said. “Students enjoy it because it’s always fun. It’s good to have something fun for them in the middle of the year.”