Got lots of recyclable materials at home? This challenging experiment is a great chance to practice engineering skills, solving a problem using only a limited amount of supplies on hand!
CAUTION: Sharp scissors, hot glue, or other dangerous tools should not be used without adult supervision. This challenge should only be done by kids 8+ with adult supervision.
This is one of my favorite and rewarding STEM challenges because you can use almost anything and it’s easy to track achievement.
Here is the full details:
- Create a wheeled contraption
- It only source of forward movement is wind from a fan (or natural wind)
- all materials must be recycled
- Glue, hot glue and tape are used to attach things
- Track how far the contraption goes (on tile or concrete is preferred)
- Try to improve the distance traveled
Here is my attempt at the wind powered car challenge. This is by no means the only way to do this and as you’ll see is not the best method!
- 4 CD’s
- 4 wooden skewers
- plastic soda bottle
- 1 plastic straw
- 2 corks
- page protector sheet
- sponge (unused)
- baggie (unused)
- Hot glue gun
- painters tape
- push pin
Here is my attempt at the car, my nephew was also doing the challenge from his home and we both compared our results at the end.
- I cut the straw, 1 skewer and the corks in half using scissors. This would make up the axle of my car.
- I glued the cork half onto the middle of the CD to make a wheel. I used the pushpin to make a hole in the middle of the cork. Using the hole made in the cork as a guide I stuck a skewer into two of the wheels. I put those aside to dry.
- Using the soda bottle taped two straw halves onto the bottom, this would hold the axle to the body of the bottle. I had to move them as the wheels ended up grinding into each other. So make sure you space the wheels out!
- I slid the wheels with the axle into the straws, they were loose enough to spin freely.
- I attached the other CD wheel onto the opposite end of the skewer making a set of wheels.
- Next, I tried to figure out how to make a sail to catch wind. I decided to make a ship style sail with a big flat plastic sail. I hoped this would catch the most wind. Using a push pin again, I put small holes in the bottle that I could stick skewers in to make the mast.
- To attach the plastic sheet, I just laid the plastic flat against the masts and taped in place.
My first time using it with the fan was on carpet. The car did not have enough speed build up to overcome the resistance of the carpet. Moving to the tile was much better, the car easily caught the wind and started moving. Here are the results:
|Trial 1||4.3 feet|
|Trial 2||5.2 feet|
|Trial 3||5.6 feet|
What I learned
Science and engineering are all about trial and error. In any sort of experiment, you are going to make mistakes and that’s okay! I learned that carpet has too much friction and its hard for the car to build up speed. I also learned that shape and placement of the sail is important, my first trial had the sail too loose and it did not catch wind properly. Adding more tape to hold the sail led to a quicker car.
My car was not nearly as successful as my nephews who was able to create a much faster car that more than doubled my distance! Either way, its fun to experiment and solve problems!
I hope you give this a try! Feel free to share pictures of your cars to the library by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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