“Oh cool!” There was a lot of excitement as a massive hot air balloon was inflating before their eyes at Los Lunas Elementary School. They quickly pulled out their iPads and started taking pictures and recording videos. Unfortunately, it was too windy for the hot air balloon to fly, so once its envelope had inflated the pilot had to bring it back down. However, it gave the students an opportunity to talk to the pilot, ask questions, and learn about hot air balloons.
“How does the balloon get bigger?” asked a curious kindergartener.
“Well heat weighs less than cold air so it rises. That’s why we use a burner to heat up the air in the envelope,” Pilot Peter Cuneo explained. He owns and operates Sandia Sunlite and Sandia Sunrise with Barbara Fricke.
“How do you make it land?” another student inquired.
“We use what’s called a ‘parachute valve’ and it’s at the very top of the balloon. It’s essentially a circle of fabric cut out of the top of the envelope, which is controlled by a long chord that runs down through the middle of the envelope to the basket. So when I want to bring the balloon down, I simply pull the chord which will open the valve, which allows the hot air to leave the balloon. That creates cooler air and that causes the balloon to descend,” Cuneo answered.
“How do you steer the balloon?” a little boy asked as he raised his hand.
“You can’t actually steer a balloon. You go where the wind takes you,” the pilot said. “We can only control if we go up or down and we can only go as fast as the wind goes.”
“How do you make a balloon?” a kindergarten student asked.
“We use different pieces of fabric and we sew them together,” he said.
The pilot then allowed each one to feel the balloon’s fabric as the students walked back to class.
The special visit from Sandia Sunrise Balloons was possible through the Apple ConnectED program, which supplies the iPads and MacBooks to Los Lunas Elementary and two other schools in the district.
“It provides the students the experience of using their iPad outside the classroom to learn,” a teacher explained. “So now they’ll go back to their classrooms and use their footage to create a movie, or a book, or a picture of a balloon they would like to design.”