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Create a rubber band racer - old

You will need:

  • 6 ice-cream sticks (paddle pop sticks)
  • 3 thin rubber bands
  • 2 wooden kebab sticks
  • 2 plastic drinking straws
  • 4 plastic cups
  • Sticky tape (we used black insulation tape so you can see the joins more clearly)
  • Scissors
  • A sharp knife or metal screw (Adult use only)

    Rubber band racer made of rubber bands, cups, paddle pop sticks and tape
    Easy to get materials to make this rubber band racer!

Rubber band racer made of paddle pop sticks, tape, skewers and plastic cup wheels
How to make a rubber band racer using easy to get materials
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  1. Create a simple square using your wooden ice-cream sticks, making sure that you overlap the corners for strength. Secure strongly with sticky tape.
  2. Using scissors, cut your straw into 4 small pieces and secure these nearby the corners of the square you created. Make sure that there is at least 20 mm of distance from the end of the square edges so that your axle can have it's rubber band fitted more easily.  Thread the two kebab sticks through the straws as shown below.

    Rubber band racer axle made of skewer and straw
    Attached straw near the corner of the wooden stick square.

    Wooden square with straws and kebab sticks in place
    Wooden square with straws and kebab sticks in place... see how the rubber band is able to attach easily?
  3. On one side of the ice-cream stick square, use the remaining two wooden sticks to create a triangular shaped front end for your rubber band racer so that a small 'cross' is formed at the front of your racer (so as to hook your rubber band over the front easily). As per before, overlap the wooden sticks and secure strongly with sticky tape.
  4. Attach your rubber band to the back axle by wrapping the rubber band over the kebab stick and then looping the rubber band  inside the loop created. Avoid large rubber bands - not only do they bend the kebab stick axle they also don't grip the axle very well at all.

    Rubber band attachment to the rear kebab stick axle
    Rubber band attachment to the rear kebab stick axle 
  5. Gently pull the rubber band forwards and over the cross you created on the front of your rubber band racer.

    Rubber band attachment on the front of rubber band racer
    Rubber band attachment on the front of rubber band racer
  6. Get an adult to create a small hole in the center of each of the four plastic cups so that the kebab stick can only just pass through the base of each cup (make the hole fit tight). use the scissors to cut down each cup so that they looks like four small wheels. Attach the cup bases as shown below and add a rubber band around the outside to give the rear wheels some grip.

    Kebab stick through the base of the plastic cup
    Kebab stick through the base of the plastic cup on on the rear axle.
  7. You're done! You should be able to carefully pull back the rubber band racer and then let it go to watch it move forwards!

    Rubber band racer
    Completed rubber band racer, ready for action!

Why does this work?

This science experiment applies multiple ideas in classical physics, all in one fun little STEM challenge!
  1. Firstly by pulling back the rubber band racer you stretch the rubber band, there by storing energy (also known as potential energy).
  2. When you let the rubber band racer go, the stored energy in the tension of the rubber band is released and is transferred to the rear axle (an application of the first law of thermodynamics... also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy whereby energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system).
  3. As the rear axle spins, the rear wheels grip the floor and push backwards which then sends the rubber band racer forwards! A classic way of demonstrating Newton's 3rd Law of motion which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Variables to try
  • Try different floor surfaces... is carpet better than tiles for example?
  • How far will the car travel if you pull it backwards set distances (is the relationship linear?).
  • Does a different size rubber band make the rubber band racer go further?
  • Can you create a different wooden stick arrangement to add another rubber band to the racer? Does this make a difference to the speed and final distance achieved?
Be Amazing Book Front Cover; Ben Newsome, teacher & founder of Fizzics Education. Be Amazing -how to teach science the way primary kids love
Be Amazing!
How to teach science, the way primary kids love

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