A #StarWarsDay activity to learn about forces

In celebration of May, The Fourth Be With You! we have an easy levitation activity to teach your kids or students about forces (gravity and magnetism).

Learning goals

Students will learn that pushes and pulls can have different strengths and directions. What happens when a force is applied to an object? It depends on the force but also on the other forces acting against that object. With a simple balloon and a little bit of static electricity, we can create forces that pull and push a ring on top of the balloon! Children of any age can perform this physics experiment!

The Activity

A #StarWarsDay activity to learn about forces
The materials for the experiment.

Materials

  • Balloon
  • A plastic bag
  • A pair of scissors
  • A wool piece of cloth or your own hair!

Assembly

Step 1: Place the plastic bag on a table or other surface and stretch it. Once you stretch the plastic bag, cut the bottom of the plastic bag.
Step 2: From the cut bottom of the plastic bag, measure at least four fingers and cut the plastic bag again. Take the trimmed cut-out piece and open it. This will be your flying ring.

A #StarWarsDay activity to learn about forces
Two very securely tied balloons!

Step 3: (Pictured above.) Inflate a balloon and make a secure knot to make sure no air escapes.
A #StarWarsDay activity to learn about forces
Step 4: (Pictured above.) To “fly” your ring, all you have to do is rub the balloon repeatedly on a piece of wool cloth or in your hair. Do the same with your ring.
A #StarWarsDay activity to learn about forces
Step 5: (Pictured above.) Launch the plastic ring on top of the balloon. As you can see both the plastic ring and the balloon repelled each other because of friction!

What’s going on?

In rubbing both objects, the plastic ring and the balloon, what you have done is filled them with a negative charge—it’s similar to magnets. Magnets can either attract (pull toward one another) or repel (push away) because of the forces (positive or negative) in magnets. In this activity, the charge in each object (balloon and plastic bag) made both objects repel each other, thus making the ring, levitate, hover, and “fly!”