Up, Up, and Away!: Chemistry Lab Creates Hot Air Balloons

Students in Daniel Barringer's chemistry class were tasked with one of his favorite experiments - creating a hot air balloon. In his six years of including this project, not one hot air balloon has lifted off the ground - until now.

"When the hot air balloon left the lab table, I was shocked," said Evangeline Nader '24, whose group produced the first hot air balloon to lift off the ground. She knew the experiment's history. "Once I realized that my group and me had achieved the unbelievable (even Mr. Barringer was astonished), I was proud of our work," she said. 

"The importance for this lab activity, just like any other in my class is to give my students a tangible, interactive experience with the material that we are learning about in class, closely mimicking how the topic is explored in the real world," said Barringer. The girls work in small groups to engineer a balloon design using what is available at Barringer's "Balloon Store" - and accomplish the task budgeting their "startup funds" to purchase what they need to both build and test their balloon structure.

Across five classes, almost 15 different groups were able to fly their balloons - a first for Barringer, who is proud of his students for diving in, problem-solving, and ultimately coming together on the last day of the project to build a larger version of their structures as a "class balloon," which - yes - did make it off the ground in each of his sections, too. 

"My hope in this, and all of my other lab experiences throughout the school year, is that my students are able to gain a full picture of the material that we are covering and gain a deeper understanding of what can be a very complex topic," he said. 

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