Energy systems

Fantastic Elastic

Troubleshooting Balloon Cars


Students meet to discuss the issues on their lists from Lesson 8. Next they revisit the concept of troubleshooting from Lesson 3. They use each others’ troubleshooting ideas to fix their balloon cars. Finally, they record what they have learned by each writing a Troubleshooting Guide.

Advance Preparation

  • Photo copy “Balloon Car Troubleshooting Guide”. Download is below.
  • Chart paper Issues list from Lesson 8.
  • Chart for Balloon Car Troubleshooting. Here is a sample


  • Balloon cars already made by students
  • Materials for making balloon cars, for use as spare parts


  1. Class meeting:
    Select one of the issues from the chart, such as “Balloon won’t hold air,” and ask:
    When our wind-ups didn’t work, what did we do?
    Review the concept of troubleshooting, and ask how it would apply to the issue you have selected.
    Make a Troubleshooting Chart, as in Lesson 3, and remind students how to fill it in, by listing the Issue, Cause and possible Fixes. Here is an example.

  2. Troubleshooting Guide:
    Based on the example you have just shown, ask each student to create a Troubleshooting Guide showing how to deal with each issue that has been resolved. They use the “Balloon Car Troubleshooting Guide” to record the cause and the fix for each issue.

  3. Using one another’s Troubleshooting Ideas:
    Ask students to present some of the issues that have come up with their balloon cars. After each issue is presented, ask if anyone has figured out a way to solve that particular problem. Then provide time for students to get their balloon cars to work, based on one another’s suggestions for troubleshooting.

  4. Outcomes:

    • Students learn to find out what’s causing a problem, rather than become frustrated by it.
    • Students develop the concept of troubleshooting, and see the benefit of identifying the cause of a problem and solving only that problem.
    • Students learn troubleshooting ideas from one another.
    • Students learn ways to address problems such as friction, air leaks, and air flow direction.


Balloon Car Troubleshooting Guide.doc