Learn About Simple Machines by Racing Race Cars!

My students LOVE, LOVE, LOVE STEAM projects! This week we learned about the Wheel and Axle Simple Machine. A wheel and axle is a simple machine that has a “wheel” and a smaller axle that uses the two parts to rotate together to transfer force from one part to the other.


I introduced the wheel and axle simple machine by teaching my students how a wheel and axle functions to move a heavy load. We discussed several examples of this machine such as a wheelbarrow, race car, rolling trash can, semi-truck and bicycle.


Since my students learn so much better from hands-on activities, I had them construct a race car using a wheel and axle simple machine. First, I passed out a straw, buttons, string and a clothespin to each table group and asked them to brainstorm how they could use these materials to build a race car. After sharing their ideas with a partner, they recorded their ideas on their brainstorming worksheets. I loved seeing how they used the materials and drew elaborate images of how they wanted their cars to look.


Next, I showed an example of a race car that I had made. Then, I modeled how to build the race cars. We followed this process:

race ramp

The best part of the day was definitely when we tested out our cars by racing two cars down a ramp! It was so much fun to make predictions and draw conclusions about why some cars were faster than other cars.


To conclude the two day lesson, we wrote about our race cars and all the fun we had! I gave my students the option of writing either a how-to piece about how they built or raced their race cars, or they could write an opinion piece about the best thing about their race cars. I loved seeing how motivated each student was to write since they had so much to say about the topic.


After they wrote about their cars, I gave out awards to the students who showed effort in making their cars. It was such a fun day that my students could not stop talking about ALL WEEK! If you would like to try making race cars with your own students, be sure to check out my Wheel and Axle Simple Machine resource from my TpT store! I hope your little scientists have lots of fun learning about the wheel and axle simple machine!

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