Crash Test Cars

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Introduction: Crash Test Cars

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: LanceMakes.com

We've all heard of the classic egg-drop engineering challenge, so here's a twist: crash test race cars! The students in my extracurricular engineering class love this project because of its open-ended nature and thrilling process.

Like this project? Check out my book: The STEAM Handbook, which has 18 innovative project ideas!

More engineering projects || Everything I make



More footage of crash tests

Step 1: Materials and Tools

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.


The presence of obviously soft or resilient materials will often hinder creative ideas.

Plastic Easter eggs will help students gauge how they will need to accommodate a real egg without risk of accident.

Fast, easy, and edible hard boiled eggs:
Place as many eggs as will fit in a pot of cold water. Make sure the eggs are covered with at least one inch of water. As soon as the water begins to boil, turn off the heat and cover. Wait 8 minutes. Place eggs directly from the pot back into the carton (most of the moisture will evaporate).

Step 2: Get Them Started!

Show students how to make a set of wheels
Here's a short video on how I construct a set of wheels using a skewer for the axle and a straw for the bushing. Explain that hot glue does not adhere very well to straws, so masking tape is used to attach the first craft stick.

Step 3: Constructing and Crashing

Experiential education
At this time, the teacher's role is not to impart knowledge to the student, but to promote an environment where the student feels motivated to learn through experience. If a student gets stuck, you can reignite Kolb's Cycle by directing their attention the ideas that were brainstormed at the start of class.

Before the test
Students may use plastic eggs to test their car as often as they want, but to use a real egg, they must get your approval. Examine the student's method of protecting an egg. If you believe a real egg will not survive a crash, tell the student why. This doesn't strictly follow the process of experiential education, but it does save you a lot of broken eggs.

Ready, set, race!
Have one person release both cars (one car starting before the other if each student releases his/her own car). Line up the front of each car and let go. The first car to cross the finish line (normal driving) or hit the wall (crash test) and have a safe egg wins!

Conducting a race:

Step 4: Advanced Idea: Micro Car

The challenge: Design a successful crash test car that uses a frame no bigger than a rectangle made of just 2 craft sticks and 2 half-sticks. Materials can be used as normal, but the wooden frame onto which the wheels are built cannot be expanded with more woodcraft.

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    13 Discussions

    I love how who ever did it it is lovely.

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    kimiL2

    2 years ago

    This will mostly work.

    Did you edit out "non survivors" in the video? Success seems to come a bit too easily here if not. Even eggs that were thrown clear of the crash were "safe". This is an AWESOME activity, but I want to modify it to be a little more challenging to "survive".

    Very nice ideas, I do something similar with my students , I limit their supplies to:
    1 sheet of paper
    2 feet of masking tape
    a rubber band a
    3x5 index card
    1 1/2 straws (for axil bearings and whatever else)

    I provide the wheels and axils (the plunger from nestle "push-ups" ice cream)

    Although I agree with: "The presence of obviously soft or resilient materials will often hinder creative ideas."...170+ students, supplies get costly. I also make them race each other so that friction also comes into play (another teaching point) and they don't try the "slow role" technique. there is a video here:http://youtu.be/XqI5H8d4r7M

    You have some ideas I will incorporate.  I need help making the connection (in the kids minds) to newtons laws.  I "talk about it" (ho-hum), but I wish I had a piece that assesses the connection.

    2 replies

    Nice video! - Are the cars being pulled into the wall with rubberband? They seem to be going quite fast. Love the lane markers and black/white checkered finish line

    Materials do get costly (I also have about 170 students under my program), though I'm fortunate enough to have a $2 budget per student for each project. You could invest in wheels from Kelvin.com and reuse them if you can't afford to let the students take it home.

    In my lectures I don't explicitly state Newton's Laws. Instead I focus on allowing the kids to learn about them by crashing their cars and observing the results; they learn by experience, not verbal definition. Let me know how you decide to incorporate the laws of motion in your next class. Thanks for your thoughts :)

    They are on an incline ramp with a trigger start. it starts at about 35 degrees , then finishes at about 15 degrees.

    Thanks for the link to kelvin.com, I have been looking for a source for wheels.

    This is pretty inspirational. An easy way to make a commonplace experiment MUCH more exciting and still grounded in what the kids need to learn. This is awesome.

    1 reply

    Exactly! I've done the egg drop with kids, and the big problem is all of the excitement is wrapped up in one moment, which can quickly turn to major disappointment. With this project, if it fails, just rebuild and try again. AND the kids get to take an awesome car home instead of a busted up container :D

    V-good, its cute to see how excited those kids were when they launched their cars :)