Summer Time is Science Time!
July 3, 2015

Planning a vacation that involves air travel this summer? Every child has probably wondered how a heavy airplane can take off, lift into the sky, stay there, and then move forward at such a fast speed.

Scientists have developed special fuels to make enough energy to get a heavy airplane off the ground. We propose a fun activity that demonstrates the same principle (but without dangerous rocket fuel) to propel a balloon across the room.

Check out our video and experiment page to learn more. We call it “Jazzy Jet’s Zipline”. Rocket fuel is based on a simple idea: create enough power to push an object forward. This movement works in part because the power created by burning fuel is focused in a single direction. By controlling the direction that force goes, you can create thrust. We too create thrust using good old air, a balloon, straw, some tape, and a string.

Airplanes and rockets aren’t the only things that use this principle. Some animals use propulsion to get around. Squids, octopuses, and jellyfish, for example, can fill part of their flexible bodies with water and force it out through a smaller opening, propelling them through—and even out of—the water. Humans have studied these natural forms of propulsion to get ideas for our vehicles and technology.

Here’s another low tech activity that will keep the kiddos entertained, learning, and playing outside on a sunny summer day. Read the Quirkles book Jazzy Jet and then make old fashioned paper airplanes. Try different designs and test them by flying. Record how far the planes go. What makes the airplanes more aerodynamic?  We’d love to feature your children’s aircraft ideas on our social media pages. Send pictures to