Upward Bound Math and Science students at Tusculum ride in hot air balloon as part of physics lesson

GREENEVILLE – Participants in the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Tusculum University not only received a physics lesson Saturday, Nov. 6, but also experienced it firsthand.

Briley Sauceman, orange shirt, and Megan Hoard, plaid shirt, who participate in the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Tusculum University, prepare to lift off in the hot air balloon.

Participants in the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Tusculum University pose in front of the hot air balloon they were able to ride Saturday, Nov. 6, as part of a learning activity about physics.

Twelve high school students were able to climb aboard a tethered hot air balloon in small groups and rise in it about 50 feet from the ground. Adventure Time Hot Air Balloon Tours set up across the Erwin Highway from campus in a field between Creamy Cup and Tusculum Baptist Church and took the students in the air.

Beforehand, Dr. Chuck Pearson, chair of Tusculum’s Natural Science Department, gave the students a lesson about fluids and what makes a hot air balloon lift.

“The gist of the lesson came down to understanding what fluids are and that liquids and solids can behave as fluids,” Dr. Pearson said. “Just like an ice cube is floating to the top of a cup of water because the ice cube is less dense than the water, this hot air balloon is going to go up because heating up the air inside the balloon makes it less dense than the air that surrounds the balloon.”

Stacey McGill, associate director of Upward Bound Math and Science, said the program wanted to give students a hands-on experience.

This is the hot air balloon during preparations to rise into the air.

The hot air balloon is in the air.

“The students will not forget this opportunity to fly,” McGill said. “The goal was to provide a real-life example of what they learned to supplement the information Dr. Pearson and others provided them. It was a great way to reinforce their knowledge in a fun and casual way.”

Tusculum’s Upward Bound Math and Science participants are from Greene County Schools and the Tennessee Online Public School. They must be interested in and be able to pursue a math or science education after high school. To qualify, they must be a potential first-generation college student or meet financial eligibility under federal guidelines.

Activities include trips, career speakers and college visits once or twice a month. Representatives from Upward Bound Math and Science also visit the schools weekly.

To learn more about the Upward Bound Math and Science program, please visit https://web.tusculum.edu/trio/ub-math-science/.