Propeller-Powered Car - Engineering Project for Kids

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About: I'm a writer, maker, and educator who's on a mission to better the world through hands-on engineering projects. Check out my work: www.MadeForSTEAM.com

Fast and fun, the propeller car is a hands-on lesson in air-powered thrust and inertia. Small, lightweight wheels have less inertia than big ones, which lets the car reach its maximum speed quickly!
Just wind it up and watch it race across the floor up to 30'!

Be sure to check out Made for STEAM, an amazing collection of hands-on projects for kids!


Step 1: Materials

Please message me to report broken links. All of these materials are used in my other Instructables for kids, so your purchases can be used across multiple projects.


Plastic propellers (Larger pack)
Wheels
Straws
1/8" dowel
Craft sticks
Craft cubes
Long rubber bands
Paperclips
Masking tape
Hot glue gun with safety nozzle

Hot glue sticks

Step 2: A Title

and some data

Step 3: No-Glue Variation

The no-glue variation uses the same building system as the Geometric Shapes lesson. The low triangular frame is built by using a normal craft stick and two smaller pieces, each approximately 1/3 the length of a normal craft sticks.

The tip of the propeller is taped, which keeps the metal hook in place and allows the user to wind the propeller counter-clockwise. Winding the propeller counter-clockwise propels the car in the direction of the narrow end of its triangular frame.

Step 4: Tips and Troubleshooting

  • Remove any thin strands of dried glue before operating the car. "Hot glue strings" get tangled in the axle or propeller shaft.
  • Make sure the skewers (axles) are straight. These are mass produced and can be severely warped.
  • More rubberbands isn't always better. Too much energy can cause the car to spin wildly out of control.
  • Wide-set wheels are more stable than narrow ones. A narrow car may flip over from the torque generated by the rubber band.
  • The rubberbands may become loose over time. You can breath new life into old bands by unhooking them and tying one end into an overhand knot. Now the remaining band is shorter (and tighter) than before.

Please be sure to take video or photos if you do this project with your class and post it in the comments :)
Have fun teaching!

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20 Discussions

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dillonmaurer

Question 4 weeks ago on Step 1

but if you don't have the propeller

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MargaretS110

Question 9 months ago

Having trouble finding the wheels. They are currently unavailable on Amazon. Would you have other suggestions as to where I could find them?

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RSAL

Question 7 months ago on Step 2

Are there written instructions for this project or only the video? There's nothing listed on the Assemble + Launch section.

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LanceMakesRSAL

Answer 7 months ago

There are no written instructions, just the video, the no-glue variation, and the Tips and Troubleshooting section. The empty step is a bug that I'm trying to resolve with the Instructables team.

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kguzdial

Question 10 months ago on Step 1

What did you use to trim the ends of the dowels? Thank you!

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jazo65zeeshan012

Reply 1 year ago

Hi. What did you use instead of the eye hook? Thanks

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T0BY

2 years ago

Great idea!

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olgamawougbeLanceMakes

Reply 3 years ago on Step 2

Thank you - looking forward to trying this project with fourth graders as part of a module on Variables.

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ecoexplorers

3 years ago on Introduction

You are awesome! I LOVE your instructables and can't wait to try some of these out with my 4th graders!

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PranayC

3 years ago on Introduction

Hello,I am living in India so I could not get the material mentioned above specially propellers and wheel .So can you suggest within 2 or 3 days

Greetings,

I am teaching an after school hands-on learning program for grades 5 and 6. Your projects look great for our purpose.

Where do you acquire the propellers, wheels, and other small plastic parts for your models?

Thanks

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jeff.smith

4 years ago on Introduction

Another cool project Lance, I can already imagine the competitive fun my classes will have racing these things across the school gym. Huge thanks!