Name of Activity Build a Sturdy Vehicle
Author STOMP
Keywords sturdy, vehicle, drive, motors, pulleys, Simple Machines, Engineering Design Process, ramp climbing, wheels
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will build a vehicle that is sturdy and able to drive using motors.
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 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.
– Make enough copies of worksheets for the class.

– Arrange students in pairs.

– Distribute LEGO Simple Machines kits.

Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Battery pack
Procedure Procedure:

  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.
    7. Redesign: Have students rebuild after failed tests. Have them identify problems their cars may be having.
    8. 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.

Reference 1
Reference 2
Reference 3
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One Response to Build a Sturdy Vehicle

  1. Lisa Fantini says:

    We did a similar activity where Mr. Ho’s fourth grade class had to make a sturdy car for Mr. Bob- a notoriously bad driver. The activity went well, they focused on making a safe seat for him, some even put rubber bands around him for protection. We tried to encourage them to plan before they build, but they were still getting acquainted with the NXTs, so we weren’t too strict about that. Our approach was to let them work for a little bit and see if they could figure out how to connect the motors to the brick. This was hard because a lot of the kids didn’t even get that the orange part of the motor was what spun, which was obviously our fault for not introducing the piece specifically enough. A formal introduction to the motor and brick might have been a good idea for our students. At the end they tested the vehicle by driving it into a wall and seeing if Mr. Bob “survived” by remaining in his seat untouched.

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