Balloon Science: Inviting Chemistry and Physics to the Party

written by
Rebecca Vieyra

In this interdisciplinary lab, students integrate chemistry and physics concepts by measuring the volume of helium gas in an irregularly-shaped Mylar balloon. The lab provides a simple way for students to investigate Archimedes' Principle and the Ideal Gas Laws. Advanced classes can perform detailed uncertainty analysis and correct the gas constant to account for moisture in the air. At either level, the lab allows learners to calculate the volume of an irregular shape with an uncertainty of less than 2%.

See Related Materials for a direct link to the journal on which this lesson is based, published in 2013 in The Physics Teacher journal.

Balloon Science: Inviting Chemistry and Physics to the Party by Rebecca Vieyra

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Published: March 14, 2016
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Gases and liquids are made of molecules or inert atoms that are moving about relative to each other. (6-8)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)

For any pair of interacting objects, the force exerted by the first object on the second object is equal in strength to the force that the second object exerts on the first, but in the opposite direction (Newton's third law). (6-8)

Types of Interactions (PS2.B)

Gravitational forces are always attractive. There is a gravitational force between any two masses, but it is very small except when one or both of the objects have large mass—e.g., Earth and the sun. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Systems and System Models (K-12)

When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models. (9-12)

Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)

Science assumes the universe is a vast single system in which basic laws are consistent. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)

Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)

Engaging in Argument from Evidence (2-12)

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about natural and designed worlds. Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science. (9-12)

Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world that reflects scientific knowledge, and student-generated evidence. (9-12)

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)

Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)

Use mathematical representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations. (9-12)

NGSS Nature of Science Standards (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)

Engaging in Argument from Evidence (2-12)

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about natural and designed worlds. Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science. (9-12)

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)

Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

2. The Nature of Mathematics

2B. Mathematics, Science, and Technology

9-12: 2B/H3. Mathematics provides a precise language to describe objects and events and the relationships among them. In addition, mathematics provides tools for solving problems, analyzing data, and making logical arguments.

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter

9-12: 4D/H9a. The rate of reactions among atoms and molecules depends on how often they encounter one another, which is affected by the concentration, pressure, and temperature of the reacting materials.

4F. Motion

9-12: 4F/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.

12. Habits of Mind

12B. Computation and Estimation

9-12: 12B/H1. Use appropriate ratios and proportions, including constant rates, when needed to make calculations for solving real-world problems.

9-12: 12B/H2. Find answers to real-world problems by substituting numerical values in simple algebraic formulas and check the answer by reviewing the steps of the calculation and by judging whether the answer is reasonable.

9-12: 12B/H9. Consider the possible effects of measurement errors on calculations.

<a href="https://www.compadre.org/portal/items/detail.cfm?ID=14052">Vieyra, Rebecca. "Balloon Science: Inviting Chemistry and Physics to the Party." 2016.</a>

R. Vieyra, Balloon Science: Inviting Chemistry and Physics to the Party, , 2016, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14052&DocID=4411>.

Vieyra, R. (2016). Balloon Science: Inviting Chemistry and Physics to the Party. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14052&DocID=4411

Vieyra, Rebecca. "Balloon Science: Inviting Chemistry and Physics to the Party." 2016. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14052&DocID=4411 (accessed 17 January 2022).

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%0 Report %A Vieyra, Rebecca %D March 14, 2016 %T Balloon Science: Inviting Chemistry and Physics to the Party %8 March 14, 2016 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14052&DocID=4411

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