activity page will offer:
hands-on experience in model car design
opportunity to engage critical thinking, analysis and process
experience for engineering application, critique and improvement
Before a new car makes it to the showroom, various prototypes must
be tested and evaluated. In this activity, you'll get a chance to
design your own model car. You'll use a variety of materials to
construct a vehicle that travels the greatest distance on balloon
power. During your trials, you'll use what you observe to update
and improve your design and understanding of model car mechanics.
from a toy car (or heavy stock paper disks)
of construction materials
Work in teams of two. Use a scissors to cut away the sides of
a milk cartoon to form a basic chassis design that resembles the
illustration show here. Punch a hole at the center of the rear
end of the chassis. The nozzle of the inflated balloon will be
inserted and secured in this opening.
tape to attach four paper clips to the underside of the chassis.
The extended "arms" of the clips will be used as axles on which
to attach wheels.
slipping on the wheels, place a pea-sized lump of clay on the
tip of each clip. The clay will prevent the spinning wheels from
moving off the paper clip axle.
up a balloon and insert its neck through the nozzle hole. Position
your car on a test track and release the balloon nozzle. Observe
and analyze its progress along the floor.
could you improve the efficiency of your model? What design changes
would improve its performance? With your instructor's approval,
update your design. Analyze the new model's performance. Did the
changes help? If so, how?
What is the stored source of power for your model car?
are the three most important factors that affect the performance
of your vehicle?
design factors are least applicable for transfer between your
scale model and a full-sized vehicle? Explain.
Does a reused balloon have the same energy storage
potential as a new balloon? Considering the challenges of balloon
reuse, how can you best insure that your testing is not affected
by changes in the balloon's stored energy?
Suppose your next design challenge is to replace balloon power
with solar power. What new components would you need for your
model vehicle? How would they affect the design of your current
car? Create a set of blueprints that illustrate your new solar
car and share them with classmates. With your teacher's approval
and available classroom materials, assemble your new vehicle.
Like the proposed hybrid engines for cars, the power plants of pre-nuclear
submarines included both diesel and electric engines. Use Internet
and print resources to learn more about these dual power sources
for submersible boats. Compare and contrast their use with the proposed
hybrid engines for cars. How were they similar? How were they different?
Are hybrid engines used in nuclear submarines? Explain.
Although the model car got its immediate thrust from the rush of
air that raced out of the balloon nozzle, where did this energy
first originate? Trace back the steps of energy conversion. Identify
each step of the transfer and identify any energy losses associated
with that change.
How would you best describe print and broadcast advertisements used
to sell new cars? Do they focus more on the mechanics or the appearance
of the vehicle? Do they target a specific gender? In the "eyes"
of Madison Avenue, what features make an automobile a guys' or gals'
car? Do you think that gender-specific ads reinforce stereotypes
or do they cater to new markets? In an open classroom forum, discuss
and debate these issues.
Middle School Science Bowl
Science Bowl information that includes solar power and hydrogen
fuel car competitions for students.
Basic overview of the construction of a model car that is powered
by a mousetrap engine.
Museum of Minnesota
A site that illustrates how to use balloon power to move a rocket
along a string.
Advisors for this Guide:
Suzanne Panico, Science Teacher Mentor, Cambridge Public Schools,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School, Wayland,
Gary Pinkall, Middle School Science Teacher, Great Bend Public Schools,
Great Bend, KS
Cam Bennet Physics/Math Instructor Dauphin Regional Comprehensive
Secondary School Dauphin, MB Canada