+
Spool Car Racer Lab

Spool Car Racer Lab

Author: Jason Fritz
Description:

Students will analyze how to increasing elastic potential energy can and will transfer into kinetic energy (energy in motion).

Students will go through the design process to create their best "Spool Car Racer" using rubber bands, pencils and spools to explore how elastic potential energy from twisted rubber bands can roll the spools (putting them into motion/demonstrating kinetic energy). 

"These simple-to-make devices store potential energy in twisted rubber bands and then convert the potential energy to kinetic energy upon release."

(more)
See More
Try a College Course Free

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

Spool Car Racer

In this O Wow Moment episode from the Children's Museum of Houston, we examine how wind-up toys work. Inside each toy is a torsion spring that stores energy by being wound, then releases that energy as it unwinds which the mechanisms inside the toy turn into movement. So, naturally, we create our own simple wind-up toy -- the Spool Racer!

Source: Children's Museum of Houston

Wind Up Racer - Sick Science #089

Finding creative, hands-on ways to demonstrate the difference between potential and kinetic energy can be difficult. Not to worry... that's why you have us! With some simple household items and a little creativity, the Wind Up Racer will have you racing a spool across the room in no time!

Source: SICK SCIENCE!

Spool Racer Overview and Questions

Full Screen

Spool Racer General Directions

Full Screen

Source: PBS Zoom

Summary and Engineering Connection

Summary

Students see how potential energy (stored energy) can be converted into kinetic energy (motion). Acting as if they were engineers designing vehicles, they use rubber bands, pencils and spools to explore how elastic potential energy from twisted rubber bands can roll the spools. They brainstorm, prototype, modify, test and redesign variations to the basic spool racer design in order to meet different design criteria, ultimately facing off in a race competition. These simple-to-make devices store potential energy in twisted rubber bands and then convert the potential energy to kinetic energy upon release.

Engineering Connection

Engineers design motor vehicles to ensure safe and effective transportation. The key component of a motor vehicle is its engine, which serves as the "black box," converting chemical energy stored in gasoline into the kinetic energy of a moving car. Since energy conversion can take place between all different types of energy, fossil fuels are not the only kind of energy input engineers choose for their vehicle designs. For example, some vehicles use batteries to store electrical energy, which is converted into kinetic energy. In this activity, students play the role of mechanical engineers as they design spool racers that demonstrate how elastic energy stored in stretched rubber bands may be used to power spool-wheeled "cars," and experience how different design criteria affect the functionality of their spool racers.

Source: Regents of the University of Colorado