Saturday, November 3, 2012

Box Car Derby -- STEM Project

I feel the need, the need for practical equation solving
Hands-on math takes center stage in this 21st Century Math Project. Implementing STEM style project-based learning is the focus in this middle and high school math project. Along with designing, building and constructing a cardboard car students will use algebra skills to solve basic physics problems, engage in reflective writing and use data to support their decisions.

Name: Box Car Derby
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra I math skills)
Math Concepts: Manipulating & Calculating with Basic Physics Equations, Measurement
Interdisciplinary Connections: Science & Engineering
Teaching Duration: 3-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $5 for a 12 Page PDF (1 project and essentials, 1 assignment with answer key)
PDF Version: Box Car Derby @ TPT

The Product: A Box Car Derby Competition! With optional reflective presentation of results and Design Process.

What's that noise?
Transform an ordinary Pop-Tart box into a smooth riding street racer! Students will get uber-enaged in this 21st Century Math Project in their attempt to be fastest racer. This serves as Middle or High School math project and can be a great collaboration between math and science.

The first time I used this project was in my 9th Grade Algebra 1 Class in a collaboration with the Physical Science teacher. Students submitted designs, “purchased” items for our store with their budget, built and test to perfection. It’s safe to say, this project was a huge success. The most difficult aspect was getting a strong wheel and axle combination. By far the best combo that worked were straight straws (with no bendy neck) and tealight candles. You can get a billion of them for $10 at Amazon.

Playing with Fruit Loops boxes.
Is that in the Common Core?
While there is not precise Common Core standard for Fruit Loops boxes, these are a few high school standards that fit this project:

--Seeing Structure in Expressions
• Interpret the structure of expressions
-- Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities
• Understand solving equations as a process of reasoning and explain the reasoning
• Solve equations and inequalities in one variable
• Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations.
-- Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data
• Summarize, represent, and interpret data of two categorical and quantitative variables
-- Making Inferences and Justifying Conclusions
• Make inferences and justify conclusions from sample surveys, experiments and observational studies

Can I take my Ratchet-Mobile home with me?
Let the games begin! After the Box Car Derby, it is in the teacher’s discretion to turn it into a Demolition Derby. While it sounds appeal, you’re soft (and hard) children will likely want to keep their car after their significant bonding period. It’s like a birth.

EXTENSION: While these cars are small enough to carry around, making a person-sized derby car sure sounds like a fun idea. Probably for extra credit 

21st Century Math Projects on the fast track to practical equation solving! If during the course of reading this blog you have went to your cupboard to see if you have a nearly empty Pop-Tart box, raise your hands.

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