Students in Mr. Bryan Gruber’s physics classes took the classic Boy Scout-inspired “Pinewood Derby” car race to the next level…by adding motors.
Gruber wanted to try something new and this Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) activity was designed to get his students doing hands-on physics and engineering.
“I really wanted to have them build a remote controlled car but that’s a lot more expensive so I decided to try this,” said Gruber, “I want students to learn about gear ratios and figure out how to gear the cars to get the desired speed.”
All the students were given exactly the same type of motors, so in order to increase the speed of their vehicles they had to adjust the gears and also consider weight and aerodynamics in order to make their cars as fast as possible. The challenge was to build their cars to race in a straight line for 50 feet. The fastest to the finish line is the winner.
“I am no mechanic by any means, so when Mr. Gruber gave me a motor I had no idea what do,” said junior Reagan Wood, “I learned how to strip a wire that day. It was cool.”
“It was a really fun project,” said junior Tyler Beckwith.
Beckwith and his partner, junior Dan Parker, built a car in classic Tyrone orange and black. They also happened to be the winners of the competition with a blazing time of 4.64 seconds.
“I enjoyed doing a hands-on project with my pal Tyler, but most importantly, I enjoy winning,” said Tyler’s project partner Dan Parker.
Seniors Kolby Cowher and Travis Yazzie built a drag-racer style car. They cut templates from cardboard to get the right size before transferring their design to balsa wood.
“What I liked about it was that it’s not like a regular class, it’s more hands-on,” said Cowher.
Senior Cameron Noll and juniors Michael Stoner and Zach Neff built a blue pickup with some nicely detailed features.
Seniors Liz Ake and Logan McKernan built a purple truck that they described as “a super-safe purple hippie-van with a passenger.” The truck had flowers on it, and it even had a passenger, “Reginald the Pig.” While it wasn’t the fastest car in the race, it was one of the most creative builds.
All in all, the students enjoyed the competition and hope that Mr. Gruber will continue doing the project every year.