STEM Challenge Bottle Car featuring Newton’s 3rd Law

Rated 4.94 out of 5, based on 206 reviews
206 Ratings
Teachers Are Terrific
Grade Levels
5th - 6th
Formats Included
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23 pages
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What educators are saying

I actually used this lesson with my second graders. They did an awesome job building the car and enjoyed seeing what wheels worked best.
My gifted students loved this project. They were engaged and able to understand exactly how this project aligned to the state standards. 10/10 would use again. Super fun and educational.
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It’s time for a STEM Activity with Newton’s Laws of Motion! Students will love this car “racing” challenge and the learning will amaze you! Your students will love seeing the balloon cars race each other or simply spin in circles!

This challenge is available in money-saving bundles!

What is the challenge?

  • Students will use materials to design and build a balloon-powered car.
  • The car must roll on a straight path and travel as much distance as possible before the balloon is exhausted.
  • This challenge will demonstrate the third law of motion.
  • Students work together to design wheels, axles, and the blowing mechanism of their cars.
  • The tricky attachment of the axles and wheels will try their patience and create opportunities to improve their vehicles.

What is your prep?

You will need supplies in addition to this resource. This includes empty water bottles, balloons- of 8-9 inch diameter, straws- in 2 sizes, dowel sticks or wooden skewers, masking tape, pipe cleaners, rubber bands, round objects for wheels, cardboard pieces, and track for racing. (The track is optional.)

The package specifically includes:

  • Cover
  • Teacher background
  • Materials and preparation page
  • 6 pages of teacher directions
  • Constraints list
  • informational page about Newton’s Laws of Motion
  • 4 pages of photographs
  • Student lab sheet
  • Scoring rubric
  • Terms of Use page.
  • All forms are editable!
  • Student answer sheets are not included, but samples from student work are included in the teacher direction pages.

This challenge will need 2 class sessions to complete.

NOTE: This project is challenging! Upper elementary grades are best suited for this challenge.

This challenge works perfectly with others about Newton’s Laws of Motion!

All three Newton challenges are available in a money-saving bundle!

STEM Challenge Bundle featuring Newton’s Laws of Motion


The simplified version of the third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the version most students might be familiar with. The easiest way to show this law is with a device called a Newton's Cradle.

So How Does This Apply to Bottle Cars?

The students understood the 3rd law of motion after seeing a Newton’s Cradle device. We related this to the bottle car with a simple explanation. What is the action? The balloon expelling air. What is the reaction? The car moving.


You might also like these STEM events about Force and Motion:


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Total Pages
23 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another. Examples of devices could include electric circuits that convert electrical energy into motion energy of a vehicle, light, or sound; and, a passive solar heater that converts light into heat. Examples of constraints could include the materials, cost, or time to design the device. Devices should be limited to those that convert motion energy to electric energy or use stored energy to cause motion or produce light or sound.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object. Assessment does not include quantitative measures of changes in the speed of an object or on any precise or quantitative definition of energy.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


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