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How to Make a Rubber Band Car

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this engineering project we'll be learning how to make a rubber band car. By the end of the lesson you'll understand how the law of conservation of energy allows a car like ours, without an engine, to soar across the room.

Introduction

Goal: Build a model car powered by elastic potential energy
Age: Middle school and up
Safety Concerns: Hot glue can burn you, be careful when handling it. An awl is a sharp tool, get an adult to help you use it.
Time: One hour

Cars and trucks are a part of daily life for most of us. They allow us to transport goods and cover long distances in a short amount of time. Most of the vehicles we use are powered by fossil fuels, like gasoline. Gasoline has stored energy, called potential energy, in its chemical bonds. When those chemicals are burned in the engine the chemical energy is transformed into kinetic energy, or energy of movement and the car moves forward. If you want to learn more about energy conversions before we start, you can check out this lesson: Types of Energy Conversions.

Today, we're going to use a different type of potential energy to power our car, elastic potential energy, or energy stored in a spring. If you want to review elastic potential energy, you can look at this lesson: Elastic Potential Energy: Definition, Formula & Examples

Materials

  • Ruler
  • Two large milkshake straws
  • Sharpie marker
  • Hot glue
  • Four large bottle caps of all the same size
  • Five toothpicks
  • Awl
  • Scissors
  • About 6 mini rubber bands

Steps

1. First, line up your milkshake straws side by side. Mark off 0.5'' in from the end of the straw and 0.75'' in from the end of the straw.

Safety Tip!! Get an adult to help you with the awl because it is a sharp tool.

2. Use the awl to carefully puncture a hole in each of the four markings on the straws.

3. Next, slide one tooth pick through the two straws to connect them. There should be two toothpicks on either end of the straws.

Safety Tip!! Hot glue can burn your skin, be careful when applying it.

4. Hot glue around the inner-most toothpick. Do not glue the toothpicks that are closest to the edge of the straws. These will be the axels for the wheels.

5. Let the hot glue completely dry and then use the scissors to trim the excess wood from the glued toothpicks. The glued toothpicks should not extend past the edge of the straws.

Diagram for attaching and gluing toothpicks
diagram

6. Now, use the hot glue to attach the four bottle caps as wheels to the mobile toothpicks axles.

7. Cut a piece of toothpick less than 0.25'' long. Use the hot glue to attach it to the front toothpick holding the wheels. This will be the anchor for your rubber band.

7. Next, hook about 6 mini rubber bands together to form your motor. Use as many rubber bands as needed to string them between the two secured toothpicks.

8. Now, hook the rubber band chain to the back toothpick axle.

9. Pull the rubber band chain and hook it onto the small piece of toothpick sticking out from the front axel.

10. Rotate the front wheels to wind up the rubber band. When you're ready, clear a path and let the rubber band go and watch your car travel!

Rubber band car final construction
rubber band car

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