Hex Nut Balloon – Centripetal Force


Have you ever put a coin in one of those wishing wells that is shaped like a giant funnel? The coin rolls around and around the sides of the funnel in smaller and smaller circles until it goes down the hole in the middle of the well. That coin is demonstrating centripetal forceCentripetal force is the force that pulls a thing toward the center of rotation….like the little whirlpool that forms when you drain the bathtub or like the Zinga water slide at Holiday World! Why IS that water slide called Zinga? Because in Swahili Zinga means “to move in a circular motion”. Lots of amusement park rides work because of the laws of physics. You can do the activity hex nut balloon to demonstrate centripetal force.

What You Need

  • Balloon
  • Hex Nut

Blow up a large balloon. Before you close the balloon, put a hex nut in it and then tie the end of the balloon closed. Hold the balloon between your hands and move it in a circular motion until the hex nut starts to roll around the inside of the balloon. Now stop moving the balloon and watch what happens to the hex nut. What you are seeing is centripetal force. The hex nut is on a circular path inside the balloon. Things that are moving in a curved or circular motion will slowly move toward the center of the circle, in this case, the bottom of the balloon. What sound does the hex nut make? How about a penny? A marble? Try them all and see how they behave the same or differently.

Websites, Activities & Printables

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Move It! How Things Roll, Slide & Fly – the Science of Forces and Motion

Learn about the physics basics that explain how forces move things on earth. Speed, acceleration, push, pull, inertia, and friction are just some of the concepts covered. Find out the basics that explain how your bicycle works as well as the creative use of these same physics principles that result in the thrill of roller coasters.

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