Who’s up for a little recycled engineering? We love turning trash into treasure, especially treasure that moves. This post will show you how to make a Toilet Paper Roll Balloon Car. With just a few supplies and a bit of recycling, you’ll be rolling in no time.
What is a Machine?
This project is a perfect opportunity to learn about simple machines, the building blocks of all things that move. Here are the six types of simple machines:
- Lever: A stiff board that rests on a center turning point called a fulcrum that is used to lift objects. Think teeter-totter.
- Wheel and axle: A wheel with a rod attached to the middle that can help lift objects. Think bicycle.
- Pulley: Adds a rope to a wheel which allows you to change the direction of a force. Think flagpole or window blinds.
- Inclined plane: A hard, flat surface with one end higher than the other. Aids in moving objects. Think slide.
- Wedge: Two inclined planes put together and helps push objects apart. Think axe.
- Screw: An inclined plane wrapped around a pole that can lift objects or hold them together. Think screw.
What’s Making the Toilet Paper Roll Balloon Car Roll?
This car has an air-powered engine! When you let go of the balloon, the air comes rushing out of the balloon due to the pressure of the balloon compressing the air. This causes a wind-like force in one direction which pushes the car in the opposite direction. This is Newton’s Third Law of Motion in action: for every force, there is an equal and opposite force.
Check out the Toilet Paper Roll Balloon Car Being Built
Check out the balloon car being built PLUS another fun project, a toilet paper roll catapult, in this video!
Toilet Paper Roll Balloon Car Supplies Needed
- Toilet paper rolls
- Masking tape
- Paper straws
- Bamboo skewers
- Glue gun
- Rubber band
How to Build a Toilet Paper Roll Balloon Car (Wheel & Axle)
- Cut 4 circles approximately 1 1/2” in diameter out of the cardboard. A good way to cut a circle is to find something round and the right size that you can trace around.
- Adults, this is a good step for you to do for safety. Grab the bamboo skewer and poke a hole in the center of each cardboard circle. Then cut the bamboo skewer into two 4” pieces.
- Cut two 3” pieces of paper straw. Tape onto the toilet paper roll. These will hold your wheel axles.
- Feed the bamboo skewer through the straws and place a cardboard wheel on each end. Hot glue the end of the skewer to the wheel for added sturdiness. If you’d like to have a sturdier car, you can use plastic cap wheels instead.
- Cut a 5” piece of paper straw. Grab the balloon and place it over the neck to the end of the straw. Wrap the rubber band around the neck of the balloon and straw until secure. Then tape the straw to the top of the toilet paper roll.
- Blow up the balloon and let the toilet paper roll balloon car roll! Does it move the way you expected? What’s giving it a boost?
If your car isn’t wheeling smoothly, check that the air can flow through the straw well. It’s easy to shut off the air flow if you don’t wrap the rubber band well. Also, check to see that the wheels can turn freely. Try rolling the car without balloon power and make corrections if necessary.
More Fun Ways to Build Cars
Love turning trash into treasure? Wheeled treasure that is? Try these other car projects!
Check out our Upcycled Toy Car Bot and Car Bot from the Bot Book!
More Hands-On Engineering Fun
Looking for some more STEAM inspiration that you can use right now? Instant gratification style? Check out STEAM Explorers!! The coolest creative experience for kids is here! It's a digital book of the month club filled with tons of fun stuff for the kids to do and learn. All engineer, teacher, and mom-approved. And most definitely KID APPROVED!
- A monthly digital magazine with cool themes that are fun to read
- Hands-on, exciting projects the kids will love.
- Science, tech, engineering, art, and math learning YOU’LL love.
- Delicious recipes the kids can make.
- Fun printables and games
In February we're having fun with spy-themed STEAM! The kids will love building a super-secret highlighter flashlight, making I Spy art, leaving their mark on sweet treats, and using science to catch a spy. You’ll love the helpful standards-based learning, printables, and tools that make STEAM exploration easy!
We’ve split the issue into four weekly themes:
- This issue has four weekly themes to inspire your kiddos:
- WEEK 1: HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT
- WEEK 2: KEEPING SECRETS
- WEEK 3: UNDERCOVER GADGETS
- WEEK 4: CATCH A SPY