Sled Wars: Gizmos

Type Category
Instructional Materials
Simulation , Lesson/Lesson Plan
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.



Sled Wars is an interactive simulation that allows students to explore what happens when objects collide. By crashing a virtual sled into a row of snowmen, students can observe how variables affect energy transfer in a collision. They can change the mass of the sled's rider or the launch height to increase the amount of energy, thus increasing the number of snowmen that can be knocked over.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
Access Restrictions

Available by subscription - The right to view and/or download material, often for a set period of time, by way of a financial agreement between rights holders and authorized users.

Performance Expectations

4-PS3-3 Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the change in the energy due to the change in speed, not on the forces, as objects interact.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of energy.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
To fully implement this performance expectation, students should develop their own questions and predict outcomes prior to testing using the simulation. This could be done in science notebooks, or in a class chart. Although this simulation includes the option of measuring potential and kinetic energy, at the fourth grade level students should be encouraged to simply manipulate the variables of sled mass and launch height to investigate collisions.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students should be allowed time to ask questions and predict outcomes prior to running the simulation in order to implement this practice. Student questions could be recorded in a class chart and data could be posted on sticky notes as it is gathered to answer the questions, or students could record questions and data in notebooks. Using real colliding objects will give students further opportunities to ask questions and make predictions about collisions.

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
Although the simulation provides various scenarios in which objects collide, it does not require students to describe the transfer of energy. This could be done through class discussion and/or writing. Labeled diagrams that show the path of the energy would be one way for students to show their understanding of this phenomenon. It should be noted that in the virtual world of this simulation, energy is not transferred to heat due to friction or to sound. These concepts could be explored if students investigated the phenomenon using real objects colliding. One way to highlight the change in temperature when objects collide is with the Smashing Sphere Demo kit ( which can be used to heat and char paper by smashing steel spheres together.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Many other explorations of energy transfer are needed to more fully explore this crosscutting concept. These might include creating basic electrical circuits, developing devices that convert electrical energy into motion energy of a vehicle, or making a solar oven. A set of student-generated posters or a class chart that summarizes energy transfer in each system would help students understand connections among their experiences.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The Sled Wars Gizmo provides an opportunity for students to ask questions and collect data in order to develop their understanding of energy and energy transfer. If implemented using the tips provided, this resource will elicit direct, observable evidence of students' performance using the practices connected with their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts.

  • Instructional Supports: The basic premise of this simulation, that an increase in energy will result in more toppled snowmen, is accessible to all students. The website includes a worksheet that can be used to introduce the lesson. The first page gets students thinking about energy and collisions. The subsequent pages include concepts, such as acceleration, which are not fourth grade expectations, so it is recommended that students develop their own questions and predictions rather than using pages 2-6 of the worksheet. However, using the tips above, students will be able to develop their own investigations. A data table may help students observe patterns in their data. Diagrams showing energy transfer in the sled system may help students develop their explanations of energy transfer.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher will need to adapt the lesson to encourage students to ask questions, collect data, and construct explanations about energy transfer. Their responses may be used for assessment. Teachers may be able to assess student understanding of the practices and core ideas by providing students opportunities to investigate collisions using real objects as well. A lesson with balls or cars and ramps could provide an introduction and an opportunity to collect questions. Using dominoes or thin blocks, such as Jenga blocks, arranged to resemble the row of snowmen in the Gizmo, students will be able to investigate how energy transfer is affected by the height or weight of the colliding object. Using ping pong balls and golf balls will allow students to change the mass of the colliding object.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This simulation allows students to manipulate variables and observe outcomes.