Discover Engineering! through the TechXcite Transportation: Quest for Speed

A Series of articles focusing on science, engineering and technology concepts using TechXcite modules available through a partnership between Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and Michigan State University Extension.

Does your child like to go fast?  Do you ever hear them say, “let’s go faster” or “push me higher?” You can harness this interest in speed and get them interested in science and engineering by involving them in TechXcite’s Quest for Speed Module.  In this module, children will design and test several different types of cars and methods of propulsion.  They will explore each car’s performance and work to improve designs.  Parents and other adults can join in on this adventure by becoming a volunteer to help facilitate this program in your community.  Visit the Michigan State University Extension website to see if a program is available or to become involved as a volunteer.

These modules can be completed separately, with a group of interested children or incorporated within an existing 4-H clubs, or group activities.  The Quest for Speed module has five separate activities which take approximately 45 minutes each to complete.  The kits are designed for grades six through eight, yet some adjustments can be made to suit fifth grade through high school.

Through exploration, children will create a spool car and test its efficiency. They will then observe all other spool car designs and evaluate which worked the best, which didn’t work so well and what they could do to improve their design, and why.  The first car youth will build and test is a ramp-powered car.  In this activity they will figure out how to determine the speed of their car, measure the time it takes for their car to move a distance, and identify and explain how a wheel’s axle, hub and tire work to make their car roll.  Next, they will build and test a rubber-band powered car.  They will have to follow a design challenge, learn about the energy stored and how tires affect the traction.  In the fourth activity youth will build and test a propeller-powered car.  They will explore the concept of torque and thrust and what effect the propeller has when added.  Finally, they will create and test a balloon-powered car.  They will practice with conversions for distances and speed.

Overall, youth participants are led to observe which designs in each activity worked best and provide reasoning.  At the end of all of the designs, they are led into discussions about what design worked best overall and why.  Problem solving within teams is promoted as well as group sharing.

Check out the MSU Extension events calendar to see if this opportunity exists in your community.  Look for the next article on the TechXcite Solar Car module coming soon!

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