Name of Activity  Ramp Cars: Wheel and Axle 

Author  Kelly Clark 
Keywords  ramp, cars, beams, axles, bushings, wheels, Simple Machines, Potential Energy, Kinetic Energy, friction 
Subject  Simple Machines 
Grade Level  K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 
Time  1 Hour Total 
Brief Description  Using LEGOs, students will build a car to travel the farthest distance off a ramp. 
Lesson Objectives:   To learn about wheels and axles. – To introduce potential and kinetic energy. 
Materials Needed:   LEGO Simple Machine kits or homemade kits with lots of beams, axles, bushings and wheels. – Ramp. – Recording sheet. – ‘Ramp Cars’ Worksheet. 
Preparation and Set Up:   Set up a testing ramp. — Mark starting point on ramp to start cars. — Mark the spot at the bottom of the ramp that students will measure distance traveled from. – Make one copy of the ‘Ramp Cars’ worksheet for each student.  Arrange students in pairs.
– Distribute materials. 
Necessary Background  This activity explores the concepts of kinetic and potential energy. A car moving down a slope converts potential energy into kinetic energy. Potential energy is the amount of stored energy the car has when it is sitting at the top of the ramp. As the car moves down the ramp it converts potential energy into kinetic energy – the energy of movement of the car. At the bottom of the ramp the car has converted all the potential energy to kinetic energy. The point just at the bottom of the ramp is the point at which the car has its maximum kinetic energy. The car will slow at the bottom of the ramp due to loss of energy to the floor through friction – the force between the car tires and the ground.
Vocabulary: 
Procedure 

Extensions or Modifications:  You can modify this activity to be applicable to older grades by having student graph distance v. time, taking the mass of their cars and predicting how far their car will travel using mathematics. 
Reference 1  http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/ramp1.doc 
Reference 2  http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/ramp2.pdf 
Reference 3  http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/ramp3.pdf 
The Columbus School 4th grade classroom taught by Mr. Plati did this activity by trying first to make sturdy cars and not focusing on how far they traveled. The cars had to drop off a desk without falling apart. Students achieved this goal in numerous ways, such as using bigger wheels, widening the base of their car, or using strong reinforcements. All of the cars were able to travel distances independently as well, and a followup could have been to use a ramp to test the distances.
We did this activity at the Columbus School with Ms. Dipersio’s 4th grade class. We started off by talking about how to build a car using the different LEGO pieces that were provided. We focused on documenting what changes they would make to a car for each trial to see how it would affect the distance travelled (from a ramp). For instance, the kids would experiment with how long the car should be, the size of the wheels, and other design decisions. Overall, the kids had a great time and really enjoyed this activity.
Freddy and I did this with fifth graders in the Sarah Greenwood school. They had a great time. If you do this activity, make sure you have something that you can use as a steady ramp – we tried to use a long piece of paper taped to our teacher’s desk, and it worked for a while, but it started ripping as the kids got more excited about testing.