The Motorized Vehicle Challenge
Ollie, Julia, and Amelia were stuck. The fifth-grade team was in the middle of building a motorized vehicle and couldn’t figure out how to get the wheel and axle to spin smoothly.
“Guys, we have an issue," said Amelia. "This can't spin."
“I have an idea! I think if we put the straw over the rod it can rotate,” said Julia.
“But we already cut our straw," said Ollie. "We don't have another one."
The Motorized Vehicle Challenge--fondly called the Race Car Project--is an immersive project enjoyed by all fifth graders at Katonah-Lewisboro. Katonah does the Race Car Project right after winter break. Increase Miller and Meadow Pond fifth graders will do it closer to the end of the school year.
Experiencing the engineering design process
STREAM: learning that straddles science, technology, reading, engineering, art, and math
Teams of two and three students are given a box with specific materials. The objective: to design and build a motorized vehicle that can travel four meters.
In the first session, teams ideate and design. A subsequent session is for building a prototype. Preparation includes a technical drawing lesson with Amy Stockfield, a district art teacher who works with both elementary and high school students on design process. The students have also completed a unit on magnets and motors with their classroom teacher.
“There is no one right design,” said Stockfield. “The project encourages students to work together to brainstorm new ideas, apply science and math concepts, test prototypes and aim for creativity and practicality in their solutions.”
“We don’t give students ideas or answers,” said Geneve Patterson, one of the fifth-grade teachers. “It’s a true inquiry.”
- Four popsicle sticks
- One straw
- One rubber band
- Four wheels
- One D battery
- One battery holder
- Two metal rods
- One DC motor
- One conversation at a time.
- Stay focused on the topic.
- Encourage wild ideas.
- Build on the ideas of others.
- Defer judgement.
Celebrating innovative solutions
While the teams work independently, they celebrate each other’s success. High-fives and cheers circulate through the room when a team has a breakthrough.
Ms. Stockfield gave Ollie, Julia, and Amelia another straw. They focused, collaboratively; tested and redesigned till day’s end. By 3 pm, their car moved forward on the blue electrical tape strip on the hallway floor.