Computer-Controlled Balloon Powered Car

An annotated top view of the balloon car.

The Challenge: To produce a vehicle that would go a maximum distance using only the power stored in a single 12” party balloon.

Technical Approach: Built a car that could regulate the amount of air escaping the balloon at any given time, thus allowing for maximum efficiency.

Selected Design Features: I used a BASIC processor to control five custom-built air valves, which would close and open at pre-designated times throughout the car’s journey in order to provide air for acceleration, and then conserve air as the car coasted. Each of the valves controlling the flow of air contained five machined nylon and aluminum parts, and was actuated by a shape memory alloy motor called a Nanomuscle. In addition, a radio control was installed to allow the car’s valve sequence to be triggered without touching the vehicle.