Building in Curriculum and Activities

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Design for Speed is a six-week unit that challenges students to apply STEM knowledge and design skills. Students engage in competitive engineering with the goal of creating the fastest and most eye-pleasing balsa wood or basswood dragster. They first develop a car concept and then build it. After a battery of tests and a speed test of their prototypes, they head back to the drawing board. Students analyze their cars for drag, mass, lift, and conformity to specifications, all with the aim of making the fastest car in the room for the culminating Day at the Races event. An aesthetics competition provides an added dimension and entices students who have an artistic flair.

Extensive web support is included such as online data tracking and exclusive access to instructional videos for each phase of the activity. Teacher familiarity with tool use and woodworking methods is required. The dragster launcher is sold separately.

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The principles of the science of speed – aerodynamics, thrust, friction, Newton’s laws of motion, and so on – are at the heart of many of the most exciting applied physics and engineering projects. Let’s Get Moving, the three-week introductory unit for the Science of Speed 2 program, teaches these concepts through several projects: a pop can engine, a balloon rocket, and air-powered bottle racers. Students not only build their vehicles, they also test them and interpret data for the purposes of reengineering. Each project successively builds on the others, and at the end of the unit, students are ready to move on to the next phase in the Science of Speed process.

The unit can stand alone and comes with everything you need to successfully complete the activity. The Science of Speed 2 program comes with extensive web support such as exclusive access to instructional videos for each phase of the activity.


Available now in both print and free digital download!

This guide continues the process of guiding students not only in designing and building an excellent dragster but also in understanding the science and technology principles that make this happen.

Production and Fine Tuning delves into the importance of carefully aligned axles, quality paint finishes, and more topics that go beyond shaping and basic construction. Some of the principles explored are:

  • Alignment and drift
  • Rolling and sliding friction
  • Aerodynamic drag
  • Specifications and trade-offs
  • Symmetry

Student materials in this guide are reproducible for distribution in your classroom. Use this guide as a supplement or use the series as the base for an engineering design course.

Equipment and materials needed to complete guide activities include the Pitsco Metric Dragsters – Getting Started Package (kits, launcher, and more), straws, modeling clay, digital scale, Roll Test Ramp, measuring tape, drill press or hand drill with 3/16" bit, spring scale, meterstick, shaping tools (for example, coping saw and rasp), dragster body blanks, try square or drafting right triangle, C-clamp, protractor, pulley, spray paint, and standard classroom tools and materials. Note: This list is for all activities; individual activities don’t require all listed materials.


Available now in both print and free digital download!

This book takes students through every step of the dragster design and construction process. Easy-to-understand text, photos, and illustrations provide clear instruction. Includes special design hints and building tips. A flowchart relates the dragster design process to real-world car design. A final section on race preparation helps students maximize their cars’ performance in competition.


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