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CO2 Cars: Physics at its Finest

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/02/2012 - 15:37
By Cherilyn Elder

By Cherilyn Elder


Have you ever seen CO2 dragsters racing across a tile floor being guided by a string?  The sight is amazing to behold.

On October 22 and 23, Mr. Nielson’s physics classes raced their C02 cars.  Two cars race each other using a machine and CO2 cartridges to push them.  A string connects the cars to the machine and guides the cars in a straight line.  The machine measures the speed of both cars.  The winner gets extra credit for having an amazing car.

The students had different feelings about this project.

“CO2 cars are like death-definitely not my best friends,” said Jessica Barker.

Making these awesome cars is a long and sometimes hard process.  Mr. Nielson taught his students Newton’s three laws of motion to help them make a faster car.

The first step in making the cars is to think of several ideas and write those ideas down.  Then the student’s favorite design has to be chosen.  Favorite meaning: best looking, fastest looking, or easiest to make.

The blueprint has to be drawn with exact dimensions and look exactly how the car will look.  After the design is complete and the materials are picked out, then the work begins.

The drill press and band saw are the first tools used to make the car.  The drill press makes the holes for the axles and wheels.  The band saw cuts the design into the piece of wood. 

When the car looks like the drawing, then you get out the sand paper and start sanding all the edges until they’re smooth.  After the car looks and feels soft, or as soft as wood can feel, you get to choose a paint color and the design that you want on your car.  Once the paint is dry, the axles are put through pieces of straws to let the wheels turn smoothly.   The axles are then placed through the holes in the car so the wheels can turn easily.  Then the wheels are put on with the gold washers in between the wheel and the car to keep them from rubbing against the wood.  The eye hooks are added to the bottom of the car for the string to go through and guide the car. 

Once the car has all of its parts and looks amazing, you are ready to race!

“It was a great hands-on experiment that helped the students apply what they learned in class,” said Andrew Putt.