Museum of Science and Industry

Fly a Hot-Air Balloon

Step 1 of 10:

Here's the Materials You'll Need:

30 sheets of tissue paper (22" by 28" each)
File folders or poster board
Hot air gun (note: hair dryers don't usually get hot enough)
Pipe cleaners
Glue stick
Pen or pencil
Template (PDF)
Safety note: Use care when using the heat gun.

Step 2 of 10:

Use poster board or file folders, the ruler and pen to make the template provided in step 1. You can glue file folders or poster boards together to make your template large enough. Cut out the template along the dotted lines.


Step 3 of 10:

Glue sheets of tissue paper together to make 10 panels that measure 7 feet by 22 inches. You'll need three sheets of paper for each panel, glued along the 22-inch edges.


Step 4 of 10:

Stack all 10 panels on top of each other. Put the template on top and trace around it (a pencil works best because the tissue paper is so thin). Cut out all 10 layers at once.

Step 5 of 10:

Slide the top panel on the pile about a half inch to the left. A portion of the second panel will be showing. Carefully fold the portion of the second panel that's showing over the edge of the top panel. Glue the panels together along this edge.

Now slide the attached first and second panels about a half inch to the right, the opposite way you slid the first panel. Fold the portion of the third panel that's showing over the edge of the second panel and glue them together. BE CAREFUL NOT TO GLUE PANEL THREE TO THE FREE EDGE OF THE TOP PANEL. The left edge of the top panel must remain free.

Continue sliding, folding and gluing each panel. Alternate sliding the panels to the left, then the right, creating an accordian fold as you glue the panels together. Continue until the only free edges are on the first and 10th panels.

Step 6 of 10:

Glue the edges of the first and 10th panels together.

Step 7 of 10:

Gather about 6 inches of the top of the balloon (the pointy ends) and tie them securely together with string.

Step 8 of 10:

Use the pipe cleaner to make a loop that will fit in the base of the balloon. Secure the loop in the base of the balloon by folding about an inch of tissue over the loop and using glue or pieces of tape to hold the loop in place.

Step 9 of 10:

Use a hot air gun to inflate the balloon. (Hair dryers don't usually get hot enough.) As the balloon is inflating, look for and glue any gaps that may appear in the seams. Clear tape can also be used to patch small holes.

Safety note: Use care when using the heat gun.

Step 10 of 10:

When the air inside the balloon is heated, the molecules in the air begin to move around and spread out, and the air becomes less dense. The surrounding, colder air falls beneath the hot air. This forces the warm air upward, which pushes the balloon up with it. The moving warm air creates a convection current.

Key Terms Defined

Convection current
Air or liquid moving from place to place while carrying heat

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