Make your own Electric Car!

electric carIn this workshop, participants will explore basic circuit concepts by investigating how to turn on a motor and determine its direction of rotation. They will learn to design and make their own switches and use these to control their motors, create gravity-powered vehicles, and then combine the motor circuits with their cars to make electric-powered cars. They will document their work by creating Instruction Manuals and Troubleshooting Guides. All worksheets and material ordering information will be provided.

This workshop will engage participants in exploring the circuits and mechanisms needed to build a small-scale electric car.

Participants will begin by conducting experiments with batteries and motors. How does one turn a motor on? How does a motor work? What determines its direction of rotation? These experiences will support a review of basic circuit concepts and electromagnetism. Next, attendees will develop and understanding of switches by conducting a “Switch Scavenger Hunt” (or Switch Hunt) to list and categorize switches in their environments. Based on the outcomes, they will design and create their own switches from common materials, such as paper fasteners, bulldog clips and paper clips, and use these to control their motors. They will also create a car chassis from cardboard, and explore methods of reducing friction, to allow it to roll.

The second part of the workshop will focus on using the basic chassis and motor circuits to create electric-powered cars. These will use propellers to create an air flow, pushing the car in the opposite direction. Participants will have the option of adding lights to their vehicles. The workshop will conclude with a discussion of how these activities can play out in classrooms. The presenters are part of the team that developed the activities and both have implemented them in their own classrooms in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. All of the physical materials are inexpensive, and curriculum materials are available at no cost at .

Donna Johnson

Science Specialist, Community School 21

Donna Johnson is the Science Specialist for pre-K through 5th grade at Community School 21, Crispus Attucks Elementary School, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where she has also taught first grade. She has been at the school for 27 years. She has also been an Adjunct Professor at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and a presenter at annual meetings of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). For the past nine years, she has participated in the City Technology Project.

Cherubim Cannon

Teacher, Ronald E. McNair School

Cherubim Cannon teaches pre-K at Public School 5, the Ronald E. McNair School, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where she has also taught 1st, 3rd and 5th grades over the past 14 years. She has conducted workshops at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the National Art Education Association (NAEA) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). For the past eight years, she has participated in the City Technology Project at the City College of New York.