Instructables
Make a rubber-band powered wooden racer! A great, pocket-sized toy to explore transformation of energy. Bascially, a precursor to the wind-up car...

This is one of the projects for our Instructables: Made In Your Mind (IMIYM) exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Houston . Produced in partnership with Instructables, IMIYM is an exhibit where families work together to build different fun, toy-like projects that help construct knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while instilling a “do-it-yourself” attitude in kids so they feel empowered to explore, tinker, and try to make things themselves. To learn more, check out the article here.

While this is a Children's Museum of Houston-designed activity, we found some similar activies like the Cotton Reel Tanks Instructable created by LDW. Often, the materials and process for building our projects are designed for use with a large number of visitors (we see over 800,000 annually) and the need to ensure safety in a mostly non-facilitated environment. So, yes, many of these projects have room for improvement in both materials and methodology, which is PRECISELY what we want to encourage the kids to do. So please do share your ideas for improvement and modifications!
 
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Step 1: What You Need:

Picture of What You Need:
  • 1 – Hourglass Wood Spool (1-3/8" D x 1-15/16"H) - you can get at most craft stores. We get ours in bulk from Woodworks, Ltd.
  • 1 - 1/4" x 9/16" Metal Washer - you can get these at your local hardware store
  • 1 – Rubber Band, #16 - available at most office supply stores
  • 1 – Chopstick - you can get these with your next Chinese takeout. We get ours in bulk from Asian Food Grocer
  • 1 – Standard Paper Clip - available at most office supply stores. You can also use a toothpick, but you may need to trim it down a little.
  • Masking Tape
We are selective in our materials for cost, ease of use, and safety due to our high traffic (800,000 visitors annually). So, for our purposes, this design worked best. But you may have other ideas - please share!

old_alex1 year ago
My father taught me to make these over 50 years ago (he made them as a child being a farm boy in Canada about 1920).
One of the best modifications is to cut tracks (V shape) in the spool every 1/4 inch. these could climb there way out hole dug in the ground, tossing dirt as it went. Elastic choice is important try a wider thicker band (experiment). Instead of tape, and paper clip we used a pin or small nail and cut a slot into the spool so it would not slip.
Given washers cost money. I would opt to take my mom’s sock darning wax and slick up the side it worked just fine.
We also added a second drive spool, wind them correctly so they go in the same direction, at that point you can add a paper car body taped to the chopstick.
I wasted many an hour modifying them and racing them up hill.
It is a lost art, given thread does not come on wooden spools, you have to go out and “buy” them. Mine came from my mothers sewing to keep 4 kids hand me downs going and the rod was from my Tinker Toy set.

Wonderful ideas!

JCA1009 months ago
I heard about this project at a children's workshop at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, UK. The staff at the museum gave me the link to Instructables and I have now ordered the materials and I am going to try it for Open Evening at my school. I will let you know how it goes.
I did this but with a pencil from the "art man" on pbs teaching me.
BigRed19731 year ago
Feeling nostalgic, and a wee bit ancient! Nicely demonstrated...........
rimar20001 year ago
Good idea!