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. Cut a slot toward the front end of the
chassis through which the "power" wheel will extend.
a DC motor and 1.5-volt AA cell within the chassis. Attach a wheel
to the motor shaft and position the motor so that the wheel extends
out of the cut slot and makes contact with the surface beneath
the chassis. Secure with tape.
a basic tricycle wheel arrangement, add two additional wheels
to the rear end of the chassis. You can use bent paper clips as
axles and lumps of clay as hubs to secure the wheels in place.
You could also cut and slot the position of these rear wheels
similar to the front power wheel.
your car on a test track. Turn on the motor and release the vehicle.
Observe and analyze its progress along the floor.
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 you uncovered that affect
the performance of your vehicle?
design factors are least applicable for transfer between your
scale model and a full-sized vehicle? Explain.
The model you constructed had front wheel drive.
How might powering the rear wheels affect the car's performance?
Develop an investigation that would compare and contrast front wheel
and rear wheel drive in these model racers.
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.
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