The Race Car Design Challenge

by Julie Harris, Middle School Program Specialist

Grade 6 students have been using the Engineering Design Process to build race cars and deepen their understanding of Newton’s three laws of motion. They explored forces and carried out experiments to understand the relationship between force, mass and acceleration. Using balloons, ramps, rubber bands or other mechanical power, students tinkered and tweaked their designs to create cars that go the furthest and fastest. There were so many creative ideas and designs!

Students learned a lot in the testing and improving phase, making adjustments to reduce friction and increase the effectiveness of their cars. There was great excitement on ‘Race Day’, as well as some tears as students experienced the frustrations engineers face when bringing their designs to life. Grade 6 students should be proud of their efforts and their ability to show resilience when designs did not work out as planned. Students can look forward to future design challenges as they build on what they have learned. Next project – SPACE!

Student Reflections

Isha C. – Testing and seeing how far the car would go was lots of fun. We learned how for some cars you need the opposite of other cars.

Soie L. – We learned how there are different motors and how they need different things like weights.

Aidan M. – I learned to keep at it and keep trying. My car, at first, was absolute rubbish, then I changed it a bit and it became somewhat better. The final copy (minus the balloon) was going to go further with more changes but it was much better than my original try. The racing was the most fun part: watching everyone put their cars on the ramp, going forward and seeing how your car did, it was really fun.

Ava N. – Building the car was really fun and I got to change things to make it better. I learned that you really have to tighten the elastic band on the balloon so it blows out properly. If you don’t do it tightly, the car stops. I also learned to make sure to glue the wheels in the centre otherwise it doesn’t move.

Abby M. – My race car demonstrates Newton’s first law because if it is moving and it bumps into something then it will stop or friction will eventually stop it. My car demonstrates the second law because as the air is blowing out of the straws it creates the force which pushes the car forward. It also represents the third law because the air is blowing out of the car which is the action and the reaction is the car moving forward.

Kian C. – My car did not do as well as I thought. My car broke the night before, and my balloon broke when I got to school. I feel that maybe I should have added another balloon. If I did it again, I would probably make a wider car with 2 balloons. It was great to have lots of tries and test my ideas. Overall a great, fun project.



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