Monday, July 13, 2015

Air-powered vehicle, Part 2 - How to make a vehicle

Two years ago, I spent 26+ hours prepping a rubber band drag racer for a 4th grade class science project (my guinea pig class), and it was a complete BUST! Even after I worked out the kinks, unforeseen issues came up and things didn't go smoothly. After spending 1 1/2 hours in class, kids were very disappointed with the result (imagine my frustration!). 

After that project, I have a general rule of spending two to three hours to try it out, and if it doesn't work, I go on to another. Well, this one, I tried building a prototype with my daughter, and it went very well. I'm definitely going to use this project in the classroom this fall.

Prototype my daughter and I built the other day.
 As I said before, there are books/kits combo for this project on sale online, but it was cost-prohibitive for me. So, I came up with a more affordable alternative.

Supplies Needed:

  • Balloon
  • Rubber bands
  • Straws
  • Thin bamboo chopsticks (skewers, lollipop stick, etc. will work, too)
  • Ruler
  • Scotch tape
  • Masking tape
  • ~2" diameter circle maker
  • A piece of cardstock paper
  • Small screwdriver or awl
  • Something to cut chopsticks
  • Scissors
Project Instructions:
  • Step 1 - Tape together the two boxes from the Part 1 of this project and set them aside.

  • Step 2 - Trace and cut out the Six wheels with the holes for the axle in the center.

  • Step 3 - Mark and cut three axle casings to size (~1/2" wider than the vehicle body width). An axle should freely slide in the casing. 

  • Step 4 - Mark and cut three axles to size (~ 1" to 1 1/2" wider than the axle casing width). An axle should slide freely in the casing.

  • Step 5 - Assembling the "engine" of this vehicle.
  • Insert a straw into a balloon.
  • Put a rubber band around the neck of the balloon over the straw.
DO NOT tie the rubber band too tight. It can collapse the straw, and it won't work well (I've learned from experience). The bendy-side of the straw should be outside to direct the air flow.

  • Step 6 - Tape the axle casings on the bottom of the vehicle. Place rubber bands on the boxes. The orange box is the front-end of the vehicle, and the green box is the back-end of the vehicle. This rubber band configuration worked for me, but you can try others to keep the balloon and the straw in place.
  • Step 7 - Put the wheels on the axle. Surprisingly, this was the most difficult part of the project - sticking/taping/sliding wheels onto the axle. I wasn't satisfied with any of the processes of keeping the wheels on the axle, but all three ways work.
  • Step 8 - Affix balloon and straw on the top of the vehicle.
  • Step 9 - Blow the balloon and have a race!
Need a picture

In the process of building this vehicle for the blog and, I built three.

I found it challenging to make the vehicle go straight. There were a lot of variables to consider, but the most important one is to make sure that the axle casing is taped on straight. Also, try tweaking the axle and flattening out or smoothing out wheels, but the results were mixed. I may have to tinker with this a little longer.

This project was a surprise because I expected it to take longer. But it didn't, and I was really happy with that. I could have cut out even more time by using a single serve cereal boxes or other smaller movie-sized candy boxes, but as I said, I wanted uniformity of sorts. But I'm not sure if I'm going to stick with making the boxes in classrooms because I only have 1 or 1 1/2 hours per project.

Thanks and have fun!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Terrific Toys - Minotaurus by LEGO

My son had this game for several years, but we never really played with it until recently. And boy was I surprised at how wonderful Minotaurus is!

The goal of this game is to get two out of three people to the matching colored area of the secret/sacred temple to win the game.

Each player rolls the dice and either he/she can move people matching the number rolled on the dice or move pieces according to the color square rolled.

  • Black - Move the Minotaur eight spaces. If Minotaur captures people, people must return to the start position.
  • Gray - Move one gray blocking wall from the edge of the game board to any place in the labyrinth.
  • Green (this is optional) - Allows the people to jump over hedges (green LEGO pieces) and move three spaces.

The best part of the game encourages people to change the rules. YOUR GAME - YOUR RULES. That's what it says in the rules book, and we've been changing the rules since we rediscovered this game. Sometimes, it's almost as if there are no rules!

Let your creativity kick into gear and drive other players crazy by coming up with all kinds of rules.

We had a lot of fun moving the gray walls around all over the labyrinth. Blocking the starting point. Blocking the temple entrance. Etc.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Air-powered vehicle, Part 1 - How to make a box (vehicle body)

This is what we are making.

But first, we must learn to make a box, first. OK. It seems a little odd that I should start off this project by teaching you have to make a box, but it will all make sense soon.

I saw a variation of this project in a science project kit/book combo. However, I can't afford to spend almost $17/student (since I collect $10/year/student), so I had to figure out a way to make it affordable.

The box will become the body of the vehicle. I can easily ask the students to bring a box for this project, but I want uniformity. So, we'll make a box.

Supplies Needed:

  • Two pieces of construction paper

Project Instructions:

  • Step 1 - Fold one corner of the construction paper.

  • Step 2 - Cut out the excess and make a square.
  • Step 3 - Put the corners together and fold it in half to make a triangle. Fold the top of the triangle (pointy-end) toward the bottom of the triangle in half.
  • Step 4 - Fold it in half again.
  • Step 5 - This is what you get. Then repeat the folding process in the opposite direction.
  • Step 6 - Again, fold it in half, and then half, again to get this.
  • Step 7 - A square with folding grids.

  • Step 8 - Fold the opposite ends together to make a triangle. Then from the top of the triangle, make a cut two squares in from the pointy-end. Leave one square from the bottom of the triangle uncut.
  • Step 9 - Leave the pointy-end pieces alone, for now. 
    Then fold in the side pieces toward the center of the box. The box should be two squares wide and one square deep.

  • Then fold the pointy-end pieces over the folded pieces and tuck it under.

  • Step 10 - Complete! The lid of the box is done. 
  • Step 11 - Now for the box bottom, this piece needs to be a little smaller. Make the first square a little smaller and cut off the excess from one side.
  • Step 12 - Repeat Step 3 to Step 10 for the bottom of the box.

We'll need to make two boxes for this project. To inspire you, I've attached another photo of the finished project.

Make one (or two boxes) and have fun!