STEAM Challenge: Create Racers Using Shoeboxes and Tennis Balls

Zoom! This is a perfect end-of-year craft.

STEAM Challenge - Create a Racer

For this STEAM challenge, students use their design skills to create their own one-of-a-kind racer!

I wish I could take full credit for this project idea, but it was inspired by an article I saw in my nephew’s Highlights magazine! In Highlights, students created a robot racer. I took this idea and gave students complete creative freedom to design any racer they would like. All we needed were empty square tissue boxes and tennis balls. Then, of course, a ramp for our racers to travel down!



Students want to decorate their racers, but they must also use their engineering skills to make them travel fast! Will 30 pom pom balls, 20 pipe cleaners, several layers of construction paper, and glue really help their racers? Students learn that minimal design is not only more pleasing to the eye, but can also help construct a super fast racimal (racing creature). This STEAM challenges also ties in well with a forces and motion unit. Students experiment with push, the amount of effort applied (to push), and distance. Teachers can also tie math in by having students measure the distance their racer traveled.

Here is what you need for this STEAM challenge:

  • A variety of art materials for students to go crazy /experiment with! (construction paper, pipe cleaners, markers, crayons, googley eyes, etc)
  • Empty square tissue boxes
  • Tennis balls

What to do:

  1. Cut the top off of the tissue box (this is the bottom of the racer).
  2. Decorate! Students can create an animal, superhero, monster, alien, cryptid—anything they can imagine.
  3. Put the tennis ball inside of the opening of the tissue box, flip it over (tennis ball on the bottom, inside of the box), set it on a ramp and watch it go!

I hope your students enjoy constructing their very own racer in this STEAM challenge! To incorporate technology along with science, math, engineering and art, invite your students to practice drawing their design sketches on the computer. Alternatively, you could have them videotape the racers in action and create a class video of the racimal STEAM challenge.

Posted by Erin Bittman

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