Spool Racers

Contributor
PBS Learning Media
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Demonstration , Experiment/Lab Activity , Activity
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This resource includes three parts: a video clip from the TV show, Zoom, to introduce the activity, an essay with background information about energy, and a set of printable instructions. Students use a spool, a toothpick, a washer, a rubber band, and a pencil to build a racer. They conduct tests with the racer by varying the number of twists in the rubber band or changing other design features. These websites provide additional ideas for modifying the basic rubberband racer design: http://www.scienceworld.ca/resources/activities/popcan-porsche http://pbskids.org/designsquad/build/rubber-band-car/

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

4-PS3-4 Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.

Clarification Statement: 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.

Assessment Boundary: 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.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Refinement of the design is suggested in the lesson plan. This will add an engineering component to the lesson and better meet the performance expectation. Students should develop a plan and describe the reasoning behind their choices in their science notebooks.

4-PS3-1 Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measures of changes in the speed of an object or on any precise or quantitative definition of energy.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The printable handout provides an explanation of how energy is transferred in the racer. Rather than sharing that part of the worksheet at the beginning of the lesson, students should be encouraged to investigate what happens when they change the number of twists in the rubber band. Students should discuss how to record their data using tables or graphs. They will then be able to construct their own explanations "relating the speed of an object to the energy of the object.”

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The handout suggests that students change one variable and retest their designs. Engineering includes defining the problem. Students should identify a problem with the original spool racer, so they will then be able to develop a solution. They may wish to make the racer faster, slower, quieter, louder, etc. Class discussion should focus on observations made while testing the racers motion to best integrate the practice with the disciplinary core ideas being explored. Is friction increased or decreased by adding materials to the spool? How is sound produced?

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students should construct an explanation, both orally and in writing, based on the results of their experimentation with the racer. The teacher should use guiding questions to lead students to an explanation. What made the racer move? How does the number of twists of the rubber band affect the movement of the racer?

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
After students modify their designs, they should compare the results with those of their peers. By comparing their data, students will be able to construct explanations for why some designs work better than others to solve the problems they identified initially.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Following their investigation using the racers, students should be able to conclude that objects with more stored energy (based on the number of rubber band twists) move faster. This lesson uses the terms potential and kinetic energy extensively, but these terms are introduced in the middle grades in NGSS. To avoid introducing too many new vocabulary words at once, the teacher may choose to use the terms motion energy and stored energy instead. How to label forms of energy can be challenging at any grade level. This article may be helpful to teachers who would like more information on the topic: http://static.nsta.org/files/sc1506_72.pdf

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The handout explains that potential (stored) energy is transferred to kinetic energy (motion) as the rubber band unwinds and the racer moves.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Building spool racers provides students with an opportunity to solve engineering problems in the context of a scientific investigation. Although the materials do not explicitly encourage students to construct an explanation, that can easily be added to the lesson. By analyzing their data about rubber band twists and motion, students will be able to describe how their racers have more energy. The crosscutting concept and disciplinary core idea about energy are explicitly addressed.

  • Instructional Supports: The video provides support for students who might have trouble following written directions, and the website suggests extending the lesson by modifying the basic racers. The discussion questions address the core idea, but written components, such as a data table and an explanation relating energy and speed, should be added to the lesson as well.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson as written does not include suggestions for assessment, other than class discussion. Adding written explanations about energy would provide a tool for assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson does not include a technologically interactive component.