Lauren Riggs stood outside Franklin Elementary School and looked up at a second-story window, eagerly awaiting her big moment.

With a crowd gathered around the front steps, her handmade apparatus was tossed out the window and hit the ground with a light thud.

The fourth-grade student recovered her creation and confirmed good news: The water balloon tucked inside hadn’t popped.

Riggs offered one of many success stories during the science club’s annual water balloon drop Wednesday afternoon at the Montana Avenue school, where scores of students temporarily morphed into small-scale aerospace professionals as they tested carefully designed projects.

The drop has become something of a tradition at Franklin, a fun extracurricular event that encourages students to develop their engineering and critical-thinking skills.

The school’s science club holds events about twice each month, and co-chair Johanna Tobel said students who participate in five events and complete a science project are rewarded.

At this year’s balloon drop, cardboard boxes, bags, cups and items of clothing — even a Halloween candy holder — were among the objects thrown from the window to the ground, which quickly turned wet with the water of broken balloons.

Riggs didn’t know about the balloon drop in her previous years at the school, and she wasn’t going to miss it this time.

She placed her water balloon on a bed of cotton balls inside a red plastic cup, then added more cotton balls and tissue on top and sealed the cup with decorated tape.

Riggs then attached a loose parachute with triple-knotted rubber bands and a little extra tape. She was glad she incorporated a parachute into her design.

“You should have a parachute when it‚Äôs falling,” she said. “Because it‚Äôs from the second story and it‚Äôs going to be tall, there would be air coming up and the parachute would open.”

Fourth-grader Mikey Strauss also landed his apparatus without any damage to his water balloon, which was secured inside bubble wrap and placed in a closed cardboard box.

“It reduces the impact,” he said.

His sister, first-grade student Julia Strauss, used a similar strategy. Her water balloon was surrounded by bubble wrap and packed tightly into a lunch bag. She was also successful.

Asked how she felt as her project was prepared for release, she said: “Excited!”

Not every student was so lucky.

Fifth-grader Myles Tobel placed his bubble-wrapped water balloon inside a tissue box and planned to attach a parachute, but he thought the add-on would get tangled and spoil his design.

Without a parachute, though, his project was doomed.

“I just dropped the tissue box,” he said. “(The balloon) has to be really well-protected, or it‚Äôs not going to work.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@smdp.com or on Twitter.

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