Energy is the potential for something to do work, and we’re exploring the differences between potential and kinetic energy!

Potential energy is the energy stored in an object due to its position while kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses due to motion. We’re doing two experiments – one with a rubber band, the other with a balloon – to investigate!

Want to duplicate them at home or in your classroom? Watch the video for an overview, gather the materials listed at the right, and follow the instructions below!

Required Materials

  • balloon
  • ruler
  • rubber band

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1

To explore potential energy, hold a ruler so that the side marked with inches is facing away from you. Stretch a rubber band over the corner of the ruler to the one-inch mark. Make sure there is no one around you that you could accidentally hit with the rubber band, then release the rubber band. Next, measure how far the rubber band traveled.

Repeat steps one through four, this time stretching the rubber band back to the four-inch mark. Remember to make sure no one is around you! Note how much farther this rubber band went compared to the first time as it had more potential energy given its position further back along the ruler!

Step 2

To explore kinetic energy, blow up a balloon. Don’t tie it! Instead, let it go so it can fly! When filled with air, the balloon has potential energy – the stretched rubber of the balloon itself and the air inside it. When the air is released, the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy as the balloon deflates and zooms around the room!