THE AIR CAR
Students will engage in a physical science investigation into
velocity and acceleration by building an air car and testing acceleration
EUREKA: #5 Acceleration II: Calculating Acceleration and #4
Acceleration I: Force=Mass x Acceleration (optional)
FUTURES WITH JAIME ESCALANTE: #4 Automotive Design
Students will be able to:
- determine the velocity of a vehicle
- demonstrate how velocity, force, mass and friction are inter-related
- define and calculate acceleration
(One set for each group of 3 students)
- one standard paper clip
- three "jumbo" paper clips
- two plastic straws
- two large index cards
- narrow masking tape
- rubber bands
- bond paper cut to fit pencil length -35.6cm x 21.6cm approx.
- "Building an Air Car" handout for each student
- "The Air Car" student questionnaire
- drawing compass (if circles not pre-drawn)
- pliers (needle nose)
- stop watch, meter stick
Constructing an Air Car - Allow one full class period for assembly.
This activity works well when students work in groups of three to create
one air car.
Explain to the students that they will construct and test air cars as part
of an extended investigation into automotive design, velocity and acceleration.
Once their cars are completed, they will calculate and run time trials and
then make design modifications.
Divide students into groups of three and instruct one person from each group
to pick up the materials and tools that will be needed for the activity.
Refer to the "Constructing an Air Car" directions and diagram.
When students have constructed their cars and have checked that their cars
accelerate, proceed to the first viewing activity.
Explain to students that they will determine the performance
capabilities of their cars. Lead students to discuss speed (distance per
time, such as miles per hour) and change in speed, or acceleration, as two
major performance specifications measured on vehicles.
Introduce the short video as overview of the basic information they will
need to understand to conduct their time trials.
Eureka is a series of five minute animated videos which cover
physical science principles in a brief and humorous manner. Each program
in a module builds on the previous program. The information is delivered
rapidly. BEGIN with #4 "Acceleration I" if you think your
students need this basic knowledge first.
CUE Eureka #5, "Acceleration II" to the beginning of the
program. Each program begins with a summary of the previous program or programs
in a specific module. FAST FORWARD through the review of program
#4 if appropriate.
Review the main focus viewing questions (questions #1 -5 on the handout)
with students but don't pass out the handout.
Focus Viewing Questions:
1. How would you define "acceleration?" (Rate of change in speed
per time period.)
2. If we measure speed in terms of hours, why do we usually measure acceleration
in terms of seconds?
(Because acceleration usually occurs in seconds rather than minutes or hours.)
3. How do you determine the speed of a vehicle? (Distance divided by time.)
4. One meter per second per second is also written as _________? (1 m/sec
5. How do you determine the acceleration of a vehicle? (The video does not
give the formula from this, but rather explains what acceleration is. You
will have to lead the discussion afterwards to explain that acceleration
is determined by dividing the change in speed divided by the change in time.)
First viewing: Show the program from beginning to end without interruptions.
Students will respond to the humor and watch for visual and auditory cues
which address some of the focus questions. STOP tape at the end of
Discuss with students how they might determine the speed of their car. (Marking
off a 4 meter long flat track at one meter intervals, and timing how long
it takes for the car to travel a measured distance.)
Also discuss the fact that the car is NOT traveling at a constant speed,
but rather increasing and decreasing in speed in a given period of time.
Tell them this is the basis for acceleration.
Second viewing: Pass out "The Air Car" student handout and rewind
the video to the beginning using your remote control. You will use the second
viewing technique which works well with this short 5 minute program. Give
students a few minutes to review the questions and write in any answers
they recall from the first showing of the video and the discussion.
The second viewing allows students to complete the handout and verify their
understanding of the discussion. Before showing the video a second time,
tell students to instruct you to pause when key points from the handout
are addressed. REWIND portions if necessary. Students will be able
to complete most of the handout during the second viewing.
Ask students how one determines the speed of a vehicle. In particular, how
could they determine the speed of their cars?
CUE Futures with Jaime Escalante: #4, Automotive Design.
PLAY the video from the beginning for about one minute. Jaime discusses
on a chalkboard, how velocity is determined. Right after he does that, stop
the tape. Ask students to clarify how velocity is determined. Explain that
they are going to use distance and time to figure out the speed of their
Return to the student handouts. Allow students time to complete their data
table and questions #6 and #7.
Press PLAY to RESUME the video as Jaime and his guests discuss car
design. After the program, invite students to list any new ideas for modifications
under question #8 on their handout.
With masking tape, mark off a four meter race track in 1 meter
increments and perform timings. It will take three people per timing. The
first person gets the car ready (turns the propeller). The second person
times how long it takes to get to the one meter mark, and the third person
times how long it takes the car to get to the 2 meter mark. Students take
time trials, calculating the velocity and acceleration of their cars. They
record their data in the Activity Data Table on the handout. To further
investigate acceleration, you may want to
calculate the acceleration in the first meter, second meter, and so on,
and compare the figures and discuss why they are different. Provide floor
space to see how far (distance) their cars can travel. They should record
Allow students to alter their cars (add rubber bands, modify supports, etc.)
to increase the velocity of their cars. Take addition time trials to see
if their modifications improve the performance of their cars. Students should
list any modifications they made or plan to make on the handout, #8. However,
tell them they may want to add or subtract information after the next viewing
Log on to the Consumer Reports web page and investigate their
evaluation of various model cars based on the performance specifications.
Make comparisons between different makes. Challenge students to find out
why some body types have different acceleration rates than others (van vs
a 2-seater, for example.)
Automobile Related Sites
1. Discuss the significance of friction in acceleration: Where
does friction occur? How could friction be reduced? Challenge students to
modify their cars with other materials not supplied by you to increase force
(a different propeller) and/or reduce friction (washers placed significantly.)
2. Log on to the Internet and search for various motor vehicle companies,
such as Ford, GM and Honda. Investigate different car models and specifications
and determine their acceleration rates.
3. At each car company's web site, investigate "what's new" in
technology to improve performance specifications in terms of body and mechanical
Master Teachers: Randall Lam and Stan Hitomi
Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online