STEM Activity: Balloon Powered Japanese Bullet Train

The Shinkansen or “Bullet Train” is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan. Initially, it was built to connect distant Japanese regions with Tokyo, the capital, in order to aid economic growth and development. Today the network has expanded to currently consist of over 1700 miles of lines with maximum speeds of 150–200 miles per hour.

I thought it would be fun to create a STEM activity based on these super-fast trains as part of our Japan Unit. I first created a small printable cutout based on a real photo of a Japanese bullet train. You can download it HERE.

I cut out the printable image and cut the tabs along the dotted lines at the bottom and glued it over a straw. I used E6000 glue as regular craft glue doesn’t adhere well to the plastic straw. May work good for a paper straw though.

I threaded the straw over string and tied each end to a chair to create my “railway”

Next, I punched a hole in the back of my train and threaded a twist tie to hold a balloon on. I also used a small piece of tape on the other end to keep the balloon horizontal so that the “thrust” would propel my train down the track.

Away it went. But not very fast. Not a bullet train, haha

Both my girls loved it – they kept trying to “catch” the train as it went down the track. We talked about how wind can power things and that the stored energy in the balloon was becoming kinetic energy as the balloon pushed the train forward.

Good science project for young kids!

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