Category Archives: Science

Getting Started with Gear Cars

On Friday, students were presented with this design challenge:  using the items pictured below (and tape, glue, etc..), build a car that, with a gentle push, travels several metres in a straight line:

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They jumped right in – building their cars, testing them out, and making modifications to improve them – all the while using their iPads to document their process (by photographing their work at different stages, and then annotating the photographs, describing the steps they took, the problems they encountered, and how they solved them, using the Explain Everything App.)

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In under an hour, everyone had a working prototype – I hadn’t expected them to get this far, this fast – but they’re good! Fortunately, I was prepared for the next step in the challenge:

Using the items pictured below, adapt your car so that it is gear-driven and battery powered – and travels down the hallway in a straight line, without a push:

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Frustration levels rose, and there was gnashing of teeth (but no weeping… thank goodness!) as they struggled with this new challenge.  Some of them were pleased that I gave them no instructions (figuring it out yourself is the fun part!), while others were really irritated with me :).  They persevered, and by lunchtime some actually had a working model.

Next Challenge?  Test your car – how far will it go?  How fast?  How can you make it go faster?  Slower?  and… (thanks to Nolan for this idea)… how do you make it stop? (without running it into something, or catching it).

I’m looking forward to watching the kids continue to figure out how gears and motors work next week.