Propeller-Powered Zipline Racers

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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

This lightning-fast project provides the thrill of propeller-driven thrust, but without the challenges of aerodynamic flight!

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

Materials


How It Works
It's simple. Winding the propeller will store energy in a rubberband by twisting it. When released, the propeller rapidly unwinds and generates thrust, which pulls the craft along a low-friction zipline. However, the torque from the unwinding propeller can cause the entire racer to flip upside down. To counter this force, another force is introduced: drag. By attaching a paper cutout, drag perpendicular to the side of the racer is created, which helps prevent inversions.

Safety and Tips

  • CAUTION! Pulling downward on the racer while it is hooked onto the zipline may cause it to be flung off the line upon being released. This can be dangerous when the propeller is rapidly unwinding. Be sure to directly supervise each student at least once as they attempt to launch their racer for the first time. Be sure to correct anyone who pulls on the zipline before a launch.
  • Make sure the zipline is either highly visible or above everyone's head.
  • Young students (grades 1-3) may need extra guidance while bending the paperclips, attaching the rubberbands, and properly launching the racer.
  • Encourage your students to experiment, especially if they're in grades 4 and up - I'm always amazed by their innovations and improvements.

5 People Made This Project!

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17 Discussions

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shllys26

8 weeks ago

Where can I get template for animal shapes, to go one the zip line racer? This is great!

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LanceMakesshllys26

Reply 8 weeks ago

Hello! I've long since discarded my templates - sorry. To create them, I just printed out silhouettes of images I found online, then traced them onto thin cardboard and cut them out for students to use. Have fun!

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26hersheys

11 months ago

I made it for a science project.

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gharrel6163

1 year ago

My friends pictures are above me!!!!

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chans59

1 year ago

IT IS FUN!!

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chans59

1 year ago

Wow!That's Great

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AmylouK

6 years ago on Introduction

Hi there! I'm an Elementary Ed student and I'll be using this to present a lesson on push and pull to my peers. You have some really great ideas and I'm sure we'll have a blast! Thanks!

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stumitch

6 years ago on Introduction

as a shop teacher of 14 years i have to say what a GREAT job you've done! i am already in the process of stringing a line in my shop! thanks!
-stu

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LanceMakesstumitch

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Much appreciated :) I've admired many of your projects from the teacher contest - keep up your superb work and imagination!

oh, and if you can, please post some photos if you try out this project. Thanks!

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Hiyadudez

6 years ago on Introduction

I don't build any of your project (Nothing personal :P), but I still watch the tutorials all the way through.

Your voice is brilliant and your instructions are super clear and easy to follow. I would follow you, but I already am :D

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LanceMakesHiyadudez

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Wow, thanks for the feedback - It's always hard to judge one's own Instructables, so it's great to hear that it's working :)