How to Make a Balloon-Powered Car Project

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

In this engineering project, you will be making a car that is powered by air from a balloon. Vary the sizes of the balloon to see how it affects the distance your car travels.


Goal: To make a car that runs on air from a balloon
Age: Upper elementary/middle school
Safety concerns: Cutting and poking holes into the paper cup requires use of sharp scissors so have an adult present to help.
Time to complete: 1-2 hours

When you think of a balloon, you probably imagine a fun toy rather than a source of power. However, think about the last time you blew up a balloon and let it go. It flew around the room like a crazy jet pack!

Now imagine blowing up that balloon and attaching it to something. The balloon would be a power source to make that object move!

A balloon can actually be a power source

In this engineering experiment, you'll watch this process at work on a car that you will build. See one of Newton's laws right before your eyes as the balloon powers your car to zoom across the room. You can vary the amounts of air you use to see how it affects the distance your car travels.


  • Balloons of varying size
  • Body of car: sturdy paper cup
  • Wheels for car: four water bottle caps
  • Axle of car: wooden skewers or straws
  • Attachment for wheels to axle: clay or dry sponge
  • Straw for attaching balloon to body of car
  • Rubber bands to secure the balloon to the straw
  • Measuring tape for measuring distance
  • Paper to record results


1. Have an adult help you poke four holes into the sides of the paper cup. This is where the wheels will attach, so they should be low on the paper cup and directly across from each other.

2. Use two straws or two wooden skewers to slide through the holes in the car body, creating the axle.

3. Attach your wheels. If using straws, place clay or a small chunk of dry sponge into the inside of bottle caps to attach to the straws. If using wooden skewers, you will need to ask an adult to help you make small holes in the bottle caps to slide the skewers through.

4. Tape a straw onto the top of the paper cup. Attach the open end of the balloon to the straw on the front end of the car and secure it tightly using rubber bands.

5. Designate a starting line for your car.

6. Carefully blow up the balloon through the straw, pinching the straw so that air doesn't escape.

7. Place your car on the starting line, and let go of the balloon.

8. Measure the distance your balloon car traveled.

9. Run four more trials to get accurate results.

10. Find the average of all trials.

11. Choose some different sizes of balloons to observe how the amount of air used affects the distance your car travels. Run five trials for each balloon size.

An example of a balloon powered car

Sample Table

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