Wind Powered Buggies
This activity was created as part of a Gratnells What’s In My Tray CPD workshop for secondary science teachers and technicians to support practical work and delivery of the curriculum. It can be carried out as a stand-alone activity for students or combined with other activities from the session to form a STEM carousel.
You will need (per team of 4):
- 1 x Deep Gratnells tray with lid
- 8 x Plastic milk bottle tops
- 2 x Corriflute (corrugated plastic) approx. 10cm by 15cm or A5 to A6 size
- 4 x Drinking straws
- 2 x Sellotape roll
- 12 x Wooden BBQ skewers (you may wish to chop the pointy ends off first)
- 4 x Scissors
- 1 x Duct tape roll
- 4 x A4 coloured card
- 10 x Cocktail sticks
- 1 x Sticky tack pack
- 4 x A4 coloured paper
- 8 x Wooden wheels
- 2 x Sharp pencil with sharp end stuck in a ball of sticky tack (to make holes in the milk bottle tops)
- 1 x Pencil sharpener
- 2 x 30cm ruler
- 2 x Felt tip pen
- 2 x Elastic bands
- 2 x Plastic yogurt pots
- Optional extra equipment for decoration e.g. glitter glue, washi tape, paint.
Tips: If you plan to have multiple teams taking part in this challenge, multiply the kit by the number of teams. Use different colour coordinated paper, card and trays for each team, this helps to organise everything and differentiate the completed buggies. Most participants use the Corriflute as the basis for their buggies, if you would like bigger or smaller buggies just adjust the size of the Corriflute provided accordingly. If you want to protect the Corriflute for re-use, be sure to tell the participants not to cut it up.
This activity also works for individuals or smaller teams, just reduce the number of buggies required and the amount of equipment provided accordingly and increase the amount of time allocated to complete it. Much of the equipment can be reused or recycled after the activity has been completed by all teams.
- Place all the equipment into one deep Gratnells tray and put the lid on.
- Repeat for each team.
What to do:
- Approach the tray and lift the lid.
- Use the contents of the tray to make two wind powered buggies. You do not have to use every item in the tray, you are free to pick and choose the items you feel will make the best buggy.
- The aim is to build a buggy that travels the furthest, so make sure your buggies are aerodynamic.
- Mark each buggy with your group’s name.
- The winning buggy will be the one that travels furthest. You can only use your breath to power it.
Tidy up time:
- Once the time allocated to complete the activity has ended, put your completed buggies back into the deep tray with your spare and unused materials. Everyone will test their buggies together at the end of the session.
When all participants/teams have completed the activity, conduct the buggy tests on a large flat surface or floor. Each team needs to decide which team member will power their buggies. All teams should set up their buggies in a line facing the same way, ensure a good space between each team to avoid collisions. Competitors should only use ONE breath, so need to make it a big one! Give a countdown “3, 2, 1 blow!” and release the buggies. Mark or measure and record the distance travelled by each buggy before removing them from the test track. Repeat for the second buggy. Alternatively, you can test, measure and record each buggy individually, it just takes a bit longer.
Measure or observe the longest distance travelled by the buggies. Winning team (furthest buggy) gets 5 points, next team 4 points and so on.
In need of inspiration for your buggy design? Take a look at our video for some we made earlier.
What is happening?
Key words: Force, Energy, Friction, Air Resistance.
Movement happens as a result of a force (energy) acting upon an object. By breathing out forcefully (blowing) the air moves quickly. Motion means kinetic energy is produced, which can be captured or harnessed by your buggy and causes the buggy to move. How far your buggy moves depends on several factors:
- The force of the kinetic energy generated by the breath, the bigger/stronger the breath the more energy is produced.
- The ability of the buggy to capture/harness the kinetic energy, the bigger the sail the more wind power it can harness and turn into movement of its own i.e. the energy is transferred from movement of the air to movement of the buggy.
- The amount of air resistance the buggy experiences as it moves, the more aerodynamic your buggy the less air resistance it will experience to slow it down.
- The amount of friction the buggy experiences as it moves across a surface, the smoother the surface and the parts of the buggy in contact with the surface, the less friction is experienced and the further the buggy will travel.
Other things to try:
- Make a prediction how far your buggy will travel before you test it.
- Modify your buggy using the equipment available. Make a new prediction and then re-test your modified buggy. Have your modifications improved the distance travelled by your buggy? Record the type of modifications made and the distance travelled by your modified buggy.
- Try again, with further modifications, predication and re-testing. Be sure to record your findings.
- Which modifications and designs make the best buggy?
- Think sustainably. Challenge yourself to make the best buggy with the least amount of equipment/materials possible.
- Does the surface you test your buggy on make a difference to the distance travelled? e.g. smooth table top or soft carpet. Why?
- Does it matter who does the blowing? Can one person make the buggy go further with a single breath than another? How could you make it a fair test?
- Sketch your buggy and label the component parts and what their role is.
- For younger participants, you could also link this activity to the book ‘Curious George Flies a Kite’. Further wind related investigations along this theme can be found here.
- For a festive version of this STEM activity, take a look at our Elf Buggy!
For more images of this activity taken at the National Technicians Conference 2017 see here
Health & Safety
As with all Gratnells Learning Rooms What’s In My Tray activities, you should carry out your own risk assessment prior to undertaking any of the activities or demonstrations.