Skip to main content

Forces and Motion - RAFT Retractor Car

As part of the forces and motion unit my students had the opportunity to play around with the RAFT Retractor Car Activity Kit. The modified activity [available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/17grd41wMyBj7kjTaZgBZk7x-trCcrDeQxNyx1LWYRhc/pub] involved the students building the vehicle [as specified by the project page] then deciding what they wanted to test. Students had several options:
  • how will the car perform over various surface types?
  • how might the speed or distance be impacted if the car has to travel up an incline?
  • how would increasing the mass on the car impact the speed or distance the car travels?
  • how could the design be adjusted to make the car go further or faster?
As usual, only one person selected to try this activity, at least until the rest of the students saw the car cruise across the classroom floor. Thank goodness for those students who are ‘early adopters’ and willing to try something unknown. In the end there were several groups who performed the surface test; one group tried the incline, and two messed around with the design of the car.

The incline test was based on a using textbooks to create the rise. Students used a ramp propped on one, two, or three textbooks. We were collectively disappointed when the vehicle did not manage any of the inclines; however that did spark discussion about traction which lead to wondering if wider wheels would help or if the car needed more power [two retractors?].

The students who tried different surface areas [classroom tile, rough asphalt, and cement] had some interesting explaining to do in their lab report’s data analysis section. The car performed so well in the classroom it would consistently run out of room before it ran out of power! The students who were strictly testing distance would get false data because the car would go further on the cement just by the fact it was longer. We decided, at some other point, we would need to test the vehicle in the cafeteria which is twice the length of our classroom.

The re-designer teams tried two different modifications. The first team felt sturdier wheels would improve the vehicles performance. They upgraded the plastic lid wheels for the higher end compact disc option. Apparently flash is not everything. The vehicle did not perform better! The students were surprised and concluded the CDs may have been too thin to get enough traction on the floor. The second team wanted a car with more power so they upgraded their vehicle to the dual engine [two retractors] model. When it came down to the classroom version of “fast & furious” the twin engine car had faster pick up but ultimately did not go any further. Sad news for the betting crowd in the stands.

This learning would never come from a textbook. Thank you RAFT for providing inexpensive ways for students to explore science concepts in a real world application. There was dialogue, thinking, exploring, testing, hypothesizing, analyzing, failure, success, and fun. It does not get any better than this!

Cynthia Lipsig, Teacher and RAFT Fellow

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Are you ready for Pi?

Time to get ready fer Pi Day at RAFT me hearties!  Set yer compasses an’ sails fer FREE Pi Day activities on March 8thbetween 3:30 to 5:30 on th’ main poop deck (aye-aye in th’ “Kit Area”) at SJ RAFT!
RAFT’s very own notorious wench, Jeanne Lazzarini (RAFT Math Master Educator), prepared a boatload of Pi Day activities to share with yer classes fer Pi Day (celebrated on March 14th every year)! Pi, (also written as π; th’ ratio of th’ circumference of a circle to its diameter) be an irrational number that goes on forever without any repeating digits, starting with 3.14159… π is illustriously celebrated over land an’ high seas March 14th (get it? On 3.14…!).    Discover great “make-an’-take” Pi day activities that prepare ye fer real Pi day!  Here’s a RAFT idea sheet fer Pi Day you can use now: Pi Day Pin. Make sure X marks th’ spot on ye calendars this March 8th, or walk th’ plank me scallywags!   Shiver me timbers an’ yo-ho-ho!  ‘Tis a RAFTy life fer me, Bucko!!!  Arrrgggghhhhh!

¡Olé! Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

¡Olémis amigos! Holy Guacamole! It’s once again time to celebrate Cinco De Mayo—the 5th of May! Instead of all the controversy around Mexico in the past year, this may be an excellent opportunity to educate your students and allow them to ask questions about what they hear on the news. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day from Spain (which is September 16th)! “¡Ay, caramba!”as Bart Simpson would say….

This is “la verdad” (the truth): when the French invaded Mexico in 1862, Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza’s force of 4,000 soldiers defeated 8,000 French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla on May 5th. The Mexicans’ courage inspired Mexican Americans (Chicanos) to celebrate the victory even though the French occupation continued four more years. Later in the 1960’s and 70’s, Chicanos involved in the civil rights movement associated Cinco de Mayo with their quest for respect in the U.S. They identified with the Native Mexican and Mestizo (people of mixed Native Mexican and European de…

CUSD Shares Possible STEAM Projects by Grade

Twelve STEAM Innovation Leaders from the Campbell Unified School District (CUSD) came to RAFT earlier this month to create new motivational activities for the start of the school year!  They met in grade-level teams with our RAFT Education staff to generate new ideas using RAFT materials that will motivate, challenge, and inspire their students. Each team was given a RAFT Makerspace-in-a-Box containing a wide variety of upcycled materials. They were asked to create a Design Challenge that directed students to solve the instructor’s challenge with the materials from the box. The Design Challenges addressed an engineering standard appropriate for each grade level and could include standards from other subjects. Here are some of their exciting back-to-school ideas:
************************************************************************************* Grades TK – 2 Engineering Standard: K-2-ETS1-1:  Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to chan…