HOME : About DITC : Movie List : Links : Bibliography : Movie Comparison : Site Map : Search
Getting Started Select Design Task Learn About Design
MOVIE 1:   9 minute 48 seconds
Vehicles In Motion

The Learning By Design™ Vehicles in Motion challenge has students build a "coaster car" -- a vehicle without an engine -- from plans given to them at the outset of the unit. Students are then asked to redesign and improve upon the performance of their "coaster car" so that it rolls down a hill and coasts as far as possible. Teams then experiment with different propulsion systems so that their vehicle is propelled by a balloon-straw, rubberband, and falling-weight propulsion systems. They then combine different ideas to create a "hybrid car" that climbs two test hills under its own power and then travels the greatest distance. While working on the unit, students use Newton's Laws of Motion to explain why their cars went straight or not, and how their propulsion systems work.

In the first third of MOVIE 1, you will see Alpharetta, GA, science teacher, Leslie Baker, guiding her students who are in the middle of their work and are testing their balloon powered model cars. Listen carefully to the diagnostic reasoning students give for their cars' performance. Use QuickTime's frame-by-frame way of viewing the cars' tests. In the rest of Movie 1, you can hear students describe the Design Rules-of-Thumb they derived from their own experiments to help themselves and others make Informed Designing decisions about their car's wheel size, bearing type, wheel tread, method of propulsion and way of connecting rubber bands to their car's rear axle (what in Movie 1 are called the J-Post and X-Post methods). Notice that students have not fully grasped the reason why cars driven by rubber bands (which produce high torques on the axles and wheels) spin out when initially released. (Hint: Large and small wheels have the same torque, but the force of the wheels on the road with small-diametered wheels is much greater than for large wheels -- Torque = Force X Distance.)

Materials List
  • 1 piece of 8x30 cm foamcore or cardboard
  • 2 6-inch carriage bolts, coarse 1/4" thread
  • 4-6 1/4" thread regular nuts
  • 2-4 1/4" thread wing nuts
  • 1 roll masking or other tape
  • 2-3 plastic or paper straws

Documents and Handouts
View or print out copies of the Vehicles In Motion student and teacher materials by clicking below:
  Vehicles In Motion - Teacher Materials (73 pages)
  Vehicles In Motion - Student Materials (171 pages)
Return To Top