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In this activity, learners build a racecar using only a rubber band, spool, straw, and paper clip! This racer is a classic toy that zips across a flat surface. The activity links to different ideas about stored energy and motion energy. Also included are suggestions for ways to take your racer to the next level - hills!

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • 1 drinking straw (or a pencil or toothpick)
  • 1 large spool (at least 1 ¼ inches in diameter)
  • Masking tape
  • 1 metal washer (1 inch or less in diameter works best)
  • 1 rubber band (just a little longer than the spool’s height)
  • 1 small paper clip (shorter than the spool’s diameter)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Potential and Kinetic Energy
      • Energy and Power
      • Work and Machines
    • Motion and Forces
      • Machines
      • Rotation Motion
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Toys
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • WGBH

Source Collection

  • Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman


  • All rights reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2007

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0610406
  • Public television viewers
  • Arby's
  • Greendog