Jeanette Yee from Parkside Elementary School submitted an Excel Grant application last fall for so her students could make Car Boats. Students used their conceptual understanding of electricity and circuits and built a basic car circuit that included a motor, propeller, batteries, wires and switch.
In her final report, Jeanette told us, “I think that through this project, my students were able to connect their science content knowledge with real life application such as design, testing and trouble shooting. I was able to see changes in attitude and confidence in my students – from being unsure and hesitant to excited, persistent and confident.”
Something that occurred more often this year was that more of their cars were moving backwards from the start. To get them to troubleshoot this problem, we observed where the air was blowing with their propellers and what direction it was taking their cars. Using their life experience of riding a skateboard, we talked about force, motion, and equal and opposite reactions, Students were able to figure out that the problem was their motors was turning the opposite direction. They had to trouble shoot how to get their motors to turn the opposite direction.
I asked them what parts could they change and their prediction. They tested it and were able to verify their predictions or adjust their solution. Most were able to figure out that they needed to switch the wires attached to their motors to get their propellers to turn the opposite direction. Students consulted with each other and were excited to share their solution to the backward car problem.
“I liked the car boat project. I learned how to make the propeller work to make the car go forward. The best thing about the project was that I got to take my car home afterwards. If my car is not working, I’d checked the wires or the batteries. Thank you for giving us the money to do this project. It helped to study about electricity and circuits before this project because I didn’t know anything about electricity before and now I do.” ~ Aileen K.
“It was a good project because we got to build it ourselves. I didn’t think I could build this project by myself at first, but afterwards it was easier and I was proud of myself. My car went backwards the first time I built it. I tried a bunch of things to get it to move forward and eventually I figured out that I had to switch the wires by the motor. I think that you should do this project with other kids next year.” ~ Tre H.
“I learned how to hook up a motor using wires to a switch. I liked that we could build a car and make it move. I was not sure when we first started but at the end I felt more confident. If my car breaks this summer, I will be able to fix it by myself. Thank you for making this project possible. It was really fun!” ~ Owen S.
“This project was pretty cool. I liked how we got the supplies and had to figure out how to build it. It was cool that we could experiment and see if different positions with batteries, motors and switches worked so it doesn’t fall over when it drives. I learned that you might have to work with other people because if you keep trying and trying but it still doesn’t work. Then you might have to ask someone for a tip. That’s what I had to do and it helped. Second, you might fail before you get something right, right away but it’s important to keep trying.” ~ Christian T.