Soup Can Derby

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In this activity (on page 2 of PDF under GPS: Roller Coaster Design Activity), learners will use food cans of many different properties (sizes, shapes, and weights) and set two cans on their sides at the top of a ramp. Learners will make predictions about which cans will roll the fastest and then let them roll to race and test their predictions. This activity is well-suited for groups. Relates to the linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: Roller Coaster Design.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • a shelf or board to use as a ramp, wide enough for two cans to race side-by-side
  • books or blocks, to stack about a foot high
  • cans of food out of the cupboard, various sizes, shapes, and weights


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Potential and Kinetic Energy
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Acceleration
      • Rotation Motion
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DragonflyTV


  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2006

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 515566