Have you ever driven a go-kart around a track? What if you could build your own tiny electric go-kart and race it with imaginary riders? You can do it with a few simple components such as a button battery, a small motor, and the head of a toothbrush! After you’ve finished building your electric racer, construct a track out of popsicle sticks and see how fast it can go.
Part 1 Building Your Car
1. Place the double-sided tape on the brush head’s back. Remove one side of your double-sided tape’s paper backing. Placing it on the back of the toothbrush head, opposite the bristles, is a good idea.
Leave a small space behind the tape where the toothbrush’s narrow cut-off stem begins. This space will be required for the spinner on your motor.
2. Tape the motor to a piece of double-sided tape. Remove the top side of the double-sided tape’s backing. Place your motor on it so that the spinner is facing the back of the brush (where the handle used to be) and the wires are facing the front.
Turn the spinner on the back of the motor with your finger to test it. Check that it can move freely, as it will need to spin in order for your car to work!
3. Bend the red wire and wrap it around the tape. Bend the red wire on the motor into a semi-circle. So that the metal tip of the wire sticks to the tape in front of the motor, push it onto it.
Don’t push the wire in so far that it becomes embedded in the tape. Otherwise, it may not make good contact with the battery.
4. Place the battery on top of the red wire using the tape. Take your button battery and place it on the tape so that the “+” side is facing up. Ensure that the metal end of the wire is beneath the battery.
Allow a space between the battery and the motor’s front end.
5. To test the motor, connect the blue wire to the battery. Touch the metal end of the blue wire to the top of the battery. The spinner on the motor should begin to spin, causing your toothbrush to vibrate!
If the motor does not start, make sure the red wire is in good contact with the battery’s underside.
You can also double-check that the spinner isn’t stuck to the tape.
Did you know that? Vibrations, such as those that cause your car to move, generate energy. Scientists have been experimenting with ways to capture energy from natural vibrations in order to generate electrical currents!
Part 2 Testing It Out
1. Place the car on a level surface. It’s now time to see how your car performs! Place it on a flat, smooth surface, such as a table or a hard floor. Make sure the toothbrush bristles are facing down.
On a soft or bumpy surface, such as a carpet or a blanket, your car may not move very well.
2. To start your car, push the blue wire against the battery. Examine what happens when you connect the wire to the battery. Does the wire remain in place when you turn off your car? Is your car on the move? Does it remain upright?
Consider this: When both wires touch the battery, they form a circuit, which is a path for electrical energy to travel between the battery and the motor. Electrons, which are tiny particles, move through the circuit and generate an electric current. What happens if you take one of the wires out of the circuit?
3. Pipe cleaners can be used to improve the performance of your vehicle. Now that you’ve tested your vehicle, consider how you can improve its performance. Take a look at the pipe cleaners that came with your kit. Try squeezing them between the motor and the battery.
Can you use them to improve the balance of your car? How?
Can they assist in keeping the blue wire in place?
Continue to test the car until it works as you expect it to!
Part 3 Designing a Track
1. Create two guardrails out of popsicle sticks and clay. Make two small clay balls with a popsicle stick. Attach a piece of clay to the edge of the popsicle stick near each end. Set it up on its side, like a railing or fence, with the clay balls supporting it. Do the same thing with another popsicle stick.
If your rails aren’t standing up, squish the bottoms of the clay balls together to make a flat base.
2. Set the rails next to each other to make a path for your car. Place the two guardrails next to each other so that they are parallel (both facing the same way). Check that there is enough space between them for your mini racecar to pass through!
3. Watch what happens when you park your car at the path’s entrance. Start your racecar and place it at the beginning of the path you created with the popsicle stick guardrails. What exactly does the car do? Does it stick to the path?
Does your car behave differently when it’s parked between the railings than when it’s free?
4. Make a longer track by adding more popsicle sticks. Build more guardrails and connect them to form a long track for your race car. Make the track into whatever shape you want!
Try incorporating some turns into your track. What happens when you make a turn in your car?
To time how long it takes your car to complete the track, use a stopwatch or a watch that displays seconds.
5. Project Completed! Test out your new electric race car.
Creative Commons License