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In this design activity, learners create a vehicle that can transport a load, like a favorite toy or as a recycled object, from the top of a zipline to the bottom using only gravity. Ziplines are a method of transportation consisting of a sturdy cable set between two points on a downward slope. Activity includes a design framework for learners to use, suggested methods to setup the zipline, a list of suggested materials to build with, an activity video, and suggested extensions for adding a story component or an extra design challenge. A Spanish version of the activity is also available. Activity costs could be lower by using all recycled materials.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Below are a list of suggested materials to use; feel free to use other materials from around your home as well.
  • Structural pieces for your vehicle: Straws, Ribbon spools, Chopsticks, Silverware, Bottle caps, Hangers, Cardboard tubes
  • Items to hold the passenger or cargo: Plastic cups and bowls, Empty food containers, Cardboard, Fabric, Coffee filters
  • Fasteners: Pipe cleaners (chenille stems),Rubber bands, Clothespins, Plastic clips, Twist ties, Hair clips and accessories, Plastic laundry hooks, Paper clips, Binder clips
  • Zipline supplies: Use a smooth, sturdy material for your zipline, String (ex: clothesline, fishing line, kitchen twine), Stick or rigid item (ex: broom handle, curtain rod, dowel rod), Your passenger/cargo (small toy or other item)
  • Tools (optional): Scissors, Hole puncher, Masking tape


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Toys
  • Transportation


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Tech Interactive, 2020

Funding Source:

  • Stanford Children's Health

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