Hot Air Balloons and Science

Hot Air Balloons and Science

Hot Air Balloon Hot Air Balloon

June 13, 2016

Story provided by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

Hot air rises – that's basic science – and some Tennessee kids are seeing this firsthand in a fun experiment.

The University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University extension teaches this lesson with hot air balloons, released into the air, and monitored for their travel. It's a fun way for science to be taken outdoors.

Today's sixth-grade science class at Meigs County Middle School is skyward, a lesson that just floats away. These youngsters are learning about hot air balloons and the science behind what makes them fly so high. 

Aubrey Raitch, a student at the middle school explained what she learned. "We learned more about convection within the atmosphere and how heat rises and what factors can determine whether the balloon rises or whether they sink faster.

UT Extension agents are here to help teach the lesson and set the balloons on their way. It’s a component of STEM education – science, technology, engineering, and math

Destiny Brown, from the TSU extension, said, "I think this gives them the chance to realize that science is more than just sitting at a desk and reading out of a book. You can figure out how things work just by the energy and the environment and the atmosphere."

The man in his ever-present cowboy hat is Extension Director Larry Mitchell, who seems to have at least as fun as the kids.
Mitchell says they have some fancy equipment here. “Actually, what we use is a turkey fryer part and a big stove pipe. We, of course, put the big stove pipe over that to direct the heat up into the balloon, and we have to hold it to get it to fill with the hot air.”

Charles Denney, from the UT Extension of Agriculture, explained, “This is all based on simple science – hot air is lighter than cooler air. Literally by a fraction, but still lighter. When the balloon is heated with propane, it will rise when you let it go, gravity in reverse.”

Later kids go back in their classroom and talk about the balloon experiment. Teacher Misty Meadows wants her students to know science is part of our world and impacts our everyday lives. "In order for these students to keep up with what's going on in today's world, in our society, then they're going to have to have get a grasp on it early."

The balloons were found a few hundred yards away and then brought back to set sail again.

The UT Extension in Meigs Country also does an experiment in schools where kids see germs in a petri dish. It teaches the lesson about the importance of washing your hands.

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