Home Store Project Ideas Project Guide Ask An Expert Blog Careers Teachers Parents Students
Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
1 hour
Total Time
1 hour
Area of Science
Mechanical Engineering
Key Concepts
Engineering design, potential energy, kinetic energy, conservation of energy
Learning Objectives
  • Understand what potential and kinetic energy are and how one can be converted to the other.
  • Use the engineering design process to iteratively test and modify a design.

Overview

Your students will design, build, and race balloon-powered cars in this fun lesson plan that teaches about engineering design and kinetic and potential energy.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-PS3-5. Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from that object.
  • MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Apply scientific ideas or principles to design, construct, and test a design of an object, tool, process, or system.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. Motion energy is properly called kinetic energy; it is proportional to the mass of the moving object and grows with the square of its speed.

A system of objects may also contain stored (potential) energy, depending on their relative positions.

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer. When the motion energy of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions. A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results in order to improve it.
Energy and Matter. Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion)

The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

This lesson plan is related to the 2015 Fluor Engineering Challenge.

Materials


materials to build a balloon car

Note: since this is an engineering design project, it does not have an exact list of required materials for students to build their cars. You can use the materials you have available in your classroom, including recycled materials, to keep costs down. The list below provides some suggestions.

  • Open floor space
  • Tape measure
  • Wheels (round objects like CDs and bottle caps, etc.)
  • Axles (wooden skewers, pencils, straws, etc.)
  • Frame/body (plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, popsicle sticks, etc.)
  • Straws
  • Balloons
  • Rubber bands
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Other assorted classroom/office supplies (paper clips, binder clips, zip ties, etc.)

Reviews

|
Was this review helpful?
Be the first one to review this activity.
Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
1 hour
Total Time
1 hour
Area of Science
Mechanical Engineering
Key Concepts
Engineering design, potential energy, kinetic energy, conservation of energy
Learning Objectives
  • Understand what potential and kinetic energy are and how one can be converted to the other.
  • Use the engineering design process to iteratively test and modify a design.

Class Materials