This engaging STEM activity requires students to research, design, and build a rubber band car to evaluate, test, and apply knowledge about potential and kinetic energy. You can choose to have students create their own cars independently or collaboratively as a group. This activity is related to concepts covered in NGSS PS3-1 and PS3-2.
1-2 Days: Students will conduct research on the design of their rubber band car. They will then plan, design, and gather materials. (You can opt to provide them a design and materials if you choose to save time and structure the activity more.)
-Students will complete a cost cart for their materials. Each item they use will cost $1. They will be required to go over their materials with the teacher and get initials to "purchase" the items needed for their car. Totals will be tallied at the end of the project. The goal is to build the most cost-effective, functioning car.
2-4 Days: After deciding on a design and gathering materials, students will begin constructing their rubber band car and conducting trial tests. They will make adjustments and modifications as needed until they have a working prototype.
-Students are required to document their modifications at each test on a data table and will later be required to reflect on how these modifications impacted the design and function of their car. Students should make a minimum of 3 modifications (add mass, change wheel type or axle, adjust the tension of rubber band, etc).
-They may change or add materials as needed. All additional materials should be documented and signed off on the cost chart.
-Students should collect data throughout their tests on the distance, time, speed, and mass of their car as well as what type of modifications that were made. They should conduct three trials at each test interval before making new adjustments.
2-3 Days: Students will compare and present their cars to the class. Students can vote on the best car in different categories (design, distance, durability, speed, cost). Then, they will complete the rest of their lab sheet graphing the data of their car’s tests and reflections on the assignment.
There is also a Collaborative Group Rubric included in this assignment to help students self-monitor themselves, and each other, throughout the assignment. You can have students fill in what they think they have earned in each category at the end of the assignment and then the teacher does the same. Average the two grades.