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Edible Race Cars Make “Fast Food”

Why are local markets besieged by groups of students each semester picking through all kinds of food products? It must be time for the Edible Race Car Project! Mr. Wnek’s physical science and physics classes are assigned a project each semester in which they are to research, design, and construct a race car using all edible materials and 4 standard length toothpicks. The students are expected to research possible designs considering factors such as mass, friction, and aerodynamics.

On race day, the cars are released on a 1 meter long ramp with an incline of 30 degrees. Although they do not race side by side, the team owners of the car going the furthest distance are awarded a token prize. Each car is required to have two trials down the ramp and students are encouraged to bring spare parts in case they need to go to the “pits” in between trials. The students collect distance and time data for each car and are required to construct a table with the average velocity calculated. To keep things interesting, students grade each other on creativity, encouraging some interesting designs. After race day, students are required to write a report detailing why they built their car the way they did along with their post race reactions. A comparison to other vehicles is expected as well as a discussion of the scientific principles involved. Honors physics classes are required to write a formal lab report including an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion sections.

The best cars have traveled more than six meters while the worst have not even rolled down the ramp! The Taco Car and the Graham Cracker Car are favorites while the Lemon Car … well, no one wants to own a car that is a lemon, right? Cars made of cucumbers often provide surprising (negative) results for the team owners. The cucumber seems that it might make a great car, but after a night or two in the refrigerator, it becomes a soggy, droopy, mess!

All in all, students report a positive experience with the Edible Race Car project. Parents relate tales of “car construction” requiring multiple trips to the local Teeter and a Sunday afternoon of building, testing, rebuilding, retesting, and of course, eating!

Written by: Mr. Wnek, Science teacher
Posted: May 26, 2011 by Cheryl Edwards

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