Build a Sturdy Vehicle


Name of Activity

Build a Sturdy Vehicle



Subject and Grade Level

1, 2, 3, K, Simple Machines


2 Hours Total

Lesson Objectives:

– Introduce students to building vehicles using prior knowledge of sturdy building, motors, and pulleys.

– Use the engineering design process to accomplish the task.

– Explore the pulley combinations that facilitate ramp climbing (extension).

Materials Needed:

– LEGO Simple Machine Kits.

– Makeshift ramp (board and stack of books, poster board, wooden blocks, etc.)

– Extra Batteries

– ‘Engineer’s Planning Sheet’

– ‘Engineer’s Final Report’ Worksheet

Preparation and Set Up:

– Set up a ramp (if you choose to do this part of the activity).

– Make enough copies of the worksheets for the class.

– Arrange students in pairs.

– Distribute LEGO Simple Machine Kits.


motor, wire, battery pack, wheels, hubs


  1. Review how to connect the LEGO motor, wire, and battery pack and how to make the motor run backwards and forwards.
  2. Review Sturdy Building and pulleys. Talk about how to make the motor attach to the wheels through pulleys.
  3. Introduce the design challenge using the Engineering Design Process
    1. Identify Problem: Tell students that their LEGO people needs a sturdy vehicles to transport them from place to place (over hills and mountains if doing ramp extension).
    2. Research: Think about what students have done before and how it might help with this design challenge. Research what diifferent types of cars look like, how they act, and what there purpose is (three wheels v. four wheels, front-wheel-drive v. rear-wheel drive, Large trucks v. small cars). Talk about different ways to power a car (gas, electric, hybrid, hydrogen etc.)
    3. Brainstorm: Talk about how you might make a frame for a vehcile. Talk about attaching the motor to make the wheels move (and that it does not have to be attached to every wheel for the car to move). Discuss how to make the design sturdy.
    4. Choose and Plan: Have students fill out the ‘Engineer’s Planning Sheet’. Have each student circle the part they will build.
    5. Create: Have students build their cars.
    6. Test: Students must pass two tests
      1. Drop Test – The vehicle cannot break when dropped from the ankle.
      2. Drive Test – The vehicle must move using the motor and battery pack.

  • Redesign: Have students rebuild after failed tests. Have them identify problems their cars may be having.
  • Share: 
    1. Have students fill out ‘Engineer’s Final Report’
    2. Come together as a class and let each student show off their design.
    3. Talk about difficulties the students encountered and how they solved their problems.

    Extensions or Modifications:

    – Have students use different sized pulley wheels to make their car drive up a ramp

    without tipping back or falling off (smallest possible pulley on the motor, largest on

    the axle with wheels). You will need to add the Ramp Test – the car should drive

    to the top of the ramp. Students may need to add additional weight to their cars.

    – Have students construct a cart that their car can pull. Have this cart pull something

    (books, blocks, LEGO people, LEGO trash/brush/bricks).

    – ADVANCED: Have students build a car that pulls a car up a ramp.

    – Make rules about where the designs can be tested.

    – Have a chart for who has completed what tests.

    Sample Images

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