Early Simple Machines Set

Car Launcher

Exploring energy and friction, push and pull, and wheels.

30-45 min.
Grades 1-2


(5-10 Minutes)

Sam and Sara are having a fantastic time racing down the hill with their super fast car. The steep hill behind their house makes a great ramp and it is a lot of fun racing down the hill and feeling the excitement in their tummies.
Once the car has stopped, it’s hard work pushing the car back up to the top again. Sara believes there must be an easier way of getting the car up the hill than all this hard pushing. Sam would like it if he could just launch Sara and the car up the hill. That would be super!

Can you help Sam and Sara build a launcher that can launch the car back up the hill?
Let’s find out!



(5-10 Minutes)

Build the car and launcher using building instructions no. 5.

Make sure the wheels spin smoothly and do not rub on the sides of the car.


Make Your Test Hill

  • Place the plank on some books so one end is 8 in higher than the floor
  • Place the launcher and hold it at the bottom of the ramp

You could use sticky tape to hold the launcher in place.



(10-15 Minutes)

Far or further?
Using the two launchers you will be able to send the car back up the ramp.
Find out which will send the car further.

First predict which of the launchers will send the car far up the ramp and which will send the car further up the ramp?
Write down your predictions using the words on the worksheet.

Next, test how far you can launch the car using first the small and then the big launcher.
Write down your findings using the words on the worksheet.

The longer axle of the big launcher means more time to get speed and energy into the launch. More energy means more distance.


Have the students reflect on their tests by asking questions such as:

  • What did you predict would happen and why?

  • Describe what happened.

  • How did you make sure your tests were fair?
    Were your pushes equal in force? Did you launch from the same spot every time?

  • Describe how the model works.

Use a ruler for standard measuring of the distance the car travels.


(10-15 Minutes)

How close?
Make a game to see who can launch their cars closest to a wall without the cars actually hitting the wall.

The closer to the wall your car stops the more points you get!
Note your scores on the worksheet.

How can you make the game fair?
All cars are launched from the same starting position.
Everyone gets three turns.
Add up the scores after three turns, etc.


Teacher Support

Students will learn about:
How movement can be described in many ways
How push and pull affect the movement and shape of objects

9656 Early Simple Machines Set (two students per set recommended)
Boxes or books
Plank or wooden shelf – 60 in or more
Sticky tape

Crosscutting Concepts
Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
Scale, proportion, and quantity

Science and Engineering Practices
Asking questions and defining problems
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Using mathematics, Informational and Computer Technology, and computational thinking
Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Mathematical Practice
MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
MP2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively
MP4 Model with mathematics
MP5 Use appropriate tools strategically
MP6 Attend to precision
MP7 Look for and make use of structure

Measurement & Data
K.MD.A / 1.MD.A / 1.MD.C / 2.MD.A / 2.MD.D

Writing Standards
W.K.2 / W.1.2 / W.2.2

Speaking and Listening
SL.K.1 / SL.K.3 / SL.K.5 / SL.K.6 / SL.1.1 / SL.1.3 / SL.1.5 / SL.2.1 / SL.2.3 / SL.2.4

Student Material

Student Worksheet

Download to view and share the student worksheet.

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