We had so much fun designing our class STEAM fair project! We used toy cars and tracks to focus on the concepts of force and motion.
Can a toy car survive this drop? If not, how can we manipulate the force acting upon the car to keep it on the track?
The toy car will not stay on the track. We can keep the toy car on the track by adding materials underneath the track to decrease the steepness.
- toy cars
- hot wheels tracks
- stools and chairs
- fifth grade scientists!
We took a variety of suggestions from our classmates to manipulate the steepness of the track. We used stools, chairs, and pillow pets. Here are some of the attempts (the toy car fell off of all of these tracks):
We even thought that a loop might help slow down the car! It did help to keep it on the track, but the car didn’t have enough momentum to make it through the loop.
We found that the way to keep the car on the track is to make the track into a “smiley face” shape. We did this by holding up the other end of the track, and by attaching it to the ceiling. This decreased the steepness of the track, while also keep the path of the car smooth and straight.
Things that might have affected our results:
- Hot Wheels tracks aren’t perfect! Sometimes the connections were a little bumpy and might have caused the car to fall off of a drop that it could have otherwise survived.
Other Ideas We Had…
We had a lot of other ideas for how to slow down the car and keep it on the track. We weren’t able to test all of them, but these ideas could lead us down some really interesting paths of inquiry.
- Adding friction to the beginning of the track might slow down the car enough to keep it on the track.
- At the end of the big drop, we could add a barrier on the track. When the first car hits the barrier, it could transfer an amount of that energy to the barrier, and then from the barrier to another car on the other end of that barrier. This might not save the first car from falling off, but the second one might be successful.
With more tracks and more space, we would love to see what else we could build! More “smiley faces”? More loops? More cars?!