Engage: Place a toy car on the edge of a desk or table and ask the students to imagine that it is a real car at the top of a hill. The car is motionless at this moment, but could easily roll down the hill. As it sits on the table, the car has potential, or stored, energy (due to its position), but has the ability to change into other forms of energy.
Push the car across the table gently with your hand and explain to the students when the car is in motion (rolling) the stored energy is being changed to kinetic energy (energy in motion).
Explain to students today they will construct ramps to explore ways to increase potential and kinetic energy in their own toy cars.
Explore: Show the video: Team Hot Wheels - The Yellow Driver's World Record Jump (Tanner Foust) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SjX7A_FR6g
After the video, ask the following questions:
- What kind of energy did the car have when it was at the top of the ramp? (potential)
- What kind of energy did the car have as it traveled down the ramp? (kinetic)
- What did you notice about the ramp's design? (the ramp started up high then dropped down then went high again just before the jump)
- What did you notice about the track and the car? (the car fit tightly onto the track with no room to move around from side to side)
- Was the car different from cars you usually see people drive on the highway? (it seemed smaller and lighter, it could go faster)
- Was the track different from the highway on which cars usually drive? (it seemed narrower and smoother).
Place students into groups of 4 students per group. Distribute materials for each group (meter stick, 3 textbooks, Zoom Zoom Data Sheet, rulers, and 1 toy car - make sure the cars are slightly differently; bigger wheels, truck versus car, small versus large, heavy versus light, etc.). Students will explore how making a ramp affects the distance a car travels using their textbooks. They will start by building a ramp 1 book high and record the distance the car travels. Then students will build a ramp 2 and 3 books high, and measure and record the distance the car travels on their data sheet. This data will later be combined with the other groups' into a class line graph using the website: Kids' Zone Create a Graph. Set the classroom timer for 35 minutes to allow groups enough time to complete this activity, then bring the class back together. Collect the data sheets and together create a graph using the website: Kids' Zone Create a Graph using each group's data. Look at the data together and ask the students the following questions:
- What caused the cars to travel the greatest distance? (the height of the ramp increased the speed and distance the car traveled)
- Do you think the type of car your team used affected your results? (yes, the speed and distance varied depending on the weight or design of the car)
- Does it matter that each team had a different sized and shaped car? (yes, all cars need to be the same to get the same results)
- Did changing the height of the ramp affect your results? (yes, changing the height of the ramp also changed the speed and distance)
- If you had more time, is there anything you would change about your ramp? (responses will vary)
Ask the students, "What can you change in the design of your ramp to 'change the energy' your car has and change the distance the car will travel?"
Allow the groups a few minutes to brainstorm ideas and make a list on the board:
- change the texture of the ramp
- extend the ramp and add loops
- try a different sized car
- make the car heavier by taping erasers, washers, paper clips, or pennies to the car
- apply a harder force (push the car harder from the start) at the top of the ramp
Tell students they may choose only one of these new variables to redesign their ramp. After designing and testing their ramp, each group will create a presentation on Educreations: https://www.educreations.com/ to share their findings with the class. They will need to include: how they changed their design from their original ramp, a visual aid (picture or drawing), the results of their change in design (were they successful in increasing the distance their car traveled), and whether they changed the car's potential or kinetic energy. The teacher should provide each student with a copy of the Zoom Zoom Redesign Worksheet and the Zoom Zoom Educreations Presentation Directions & Rubric. These handouts will give students additional information about redesigning their group's ramp and using the Educreations program.