The 1st ever Hot Air Balloon Design Challenge!

Los Angeles Travel Blog

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Sinchai gives the volunteer engineers a quick briefing
Today was the BIG DAY. The organization that I worked for/volunteered at was holding its first community event at USC. 60 kids were being bussed in from 2 schools to participate in an engineering design challenge - building the best hot air balloon! It was tough organizing this, but by some miracle (otherwise known as the VP herself - Lindsey) it was pulled off without a hitch, and by the grace of God (he really DOES provide, in the craziest ways..) Domino's donated enough pizza to feed all these kids and volunteer engineers.

It's interesting being behind the scenes of an event. I don't think we appreciate how much money and effort and planning goes into it. We had to rent the tables and chairs in the quad. We had to buy supplies and test out the experiment to make sure it worked and then get enough for 60 kids.
Discussing how to build the balloons
We had to recruit volunteer engineers to lead the kids. We had to hope the engineers actually showed up (half of them didn't.) We had to contact as much media as possible so that people would know about the great work going on. We had to coordinate with the schools and get permission slips and photo waivers. We had to get food and drinks to feed the kids. We had to get ice to keep the drinks cold. We had to get prizes to award the winning team. We had to get certificates printed so that every child went home with something to remember their experience. We had to cart our banners, T-shirts (we sold 1), prizes and supplies to USC and set everything up.

I'm just glad everyone stayed safe and none of the balloons caught on fire. =)

So here's how it went:

Using mere tissue paper and tape (the initial design had wire to shape the balloons but proved too heavy for only hot air to lift) kids had to design the shape of a hot air balloon.
some shapes start to take form..
How would it lift off, you ask? We took a couple of those purple jelly alcohol candles used for camping and placed a rigid metal stretchy neck tube (the kind you use in your kitchen that connects the ventilator in the hood to your roof) over it. We cut airholes in the metal channel so the candles wouldn't go out and this would allow enough distance to hold the neck of each hot air balloon over it without lighting on fire (which happened to the prototype 30 minutes before the kids arrived). It was quite brilliant considering we had no electricity.

The kids were awesome. Such amazing young people. They traded color tissue paper with other groups, taped their hearts out, some took fallen leaves to decorate their balloons, and never fought or displayed inappropriate behavior.
that's a big one!
They were patient when their team leader wasn't the nicest or great at explaining things. They almost always smiled for the camera and had fun. Most of all I hope they learned some stuff. I loved it when they were testing the balloons and some of them were so nervous - they all really wanted their balloon to fly, but I think out of 15 groups, only 3 did! =) Too much tape!

It was a great day, so exciting to see them create working models of hot air balloons with nothing but scissors, tissue paper, tape and a heat source. I can't wait to brainstorm next year's challenge..
stone31 says:
You have great memories from your time in LA!!! :-)
Posted on: Nov 28, 2009
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Sinchai gives the volunteer engine…
Sinchai gives the volunteer engin…
Discussing how to build the balloo…
Discussing how to build the ballo…
some shapes start to take form..
some shapes start to take form..
thats a big one!
that's a big one!
gorgeous shape!
gorgeous shape!
Kids start to arrive
Kids start to arrive
Thank you Dominos!!
Thank you Dominos!!
looks nice, but will it fly??
looks nice, but will it fly??
Lindsey from Iridescent!!
Lindsey from Iridescent!!
I found out today that kids like t…
I found out today that kids like …
waiting for the testing to begin..
waiting for the testing to begin..
This team..
This team..
is the first one...
is the first one...
that actually flies!! =)
that actually flies!! =)
pizza time!
pizza time!
waiting for the judging
waiting for the judging
winning team getting their prizes!
winning team getting their prizes!
Western Elementary holding their c…
Western Elementary holding their …