Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Science Camp: Slow Car Race

Students are each given a length of lumber (the size doesn't really matter, just make sure everyone has the same sized piece) and a matchbox car.  They need to create a ramp the car can travel down, but as slowly as possible. 

The students can position the wood in any way they wish and add anything to the wood to slow the car.  My only caveat is that they cannot ruin the wood - at the end of the "race" they need to be able to remove anything they've added and return it to me in the same condition in which they were given it (so it can be used again for another group). 

I spread out a variety of supplies:
  • a variety of types of paper
  • rubberbands
  • masking tape
  • glue
  • yarn
  • string
  • thread
  • toothpicks
  • popsicle sticks
  • straws

Students are welcome to ask for other supplies - if it's something I have in the lab, they're welcome to use it. 

The ramp construction must be completed within one session.  Even students who build quickly can remain busy by constantly testing and trying to improve upon their design.

Once construction is complete, all the ramps are set up.  The cars are placed at the top of the ramp and released at the same time.  The last car to reach the bottom is declared the winner.  Any cars that don't reach the bottom of the ramp (put a 5 or 10 minute time limit on the race) are disqualified from the competetion.

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