Popsicle Stick Cars Project Demonstrates The Principals Of Dynamics

Around 300 engineering students from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada gathered in late November to demonstrate potential energy-powered vehicles in culmination of a project delegated by William Altenhof, their professor.  

“This exercise is an opportunity to expose students to practical applications of the principles of dynamics, and concept of mechanics,” outlined Dr. Altenhof, earlier in November.

A Closer Look At The Potential Energy Vehicle Project

The project demanded the students design, analyse, build, test-out & demonstrate a vehicle which maximises distance travelled. The catch however, was the engineering students could only use popsicle sticks, carpenter’s glue, a standard size, CD, or DVD, household string and duct tape.

The rules stipulated the Popsicle vehicles had to measure 50 cm, or less in length & width, and could weigh up to 2.8 kg. Each little car had to be fitted with a locking emergency brake. And last of all, each had to be tough and capable of withstanding a little battering in handling.

A 2 kg weight was fixed onto each of the vehicles before the start of the demonstration. This weight took the place of fuel, propelling the car forward.

The Results…

Some of the vehicles rolled at an angle, others didn’t move at all, and some of them toppled over. Each team was graded on distance and mass, so the winners were those teams whose vehicles travelled furthest and weighed the lightest.

Putting Theory Into Practice

The project provides hands-on applications of engineering principles and is an excellent way of getting engineering students to apply what they have learnt during their studies to the real world environment.

“Most of our stuff is theoretical. When you get to do something in the real world, you have to use experimental values. It helps you realize what it’s all about,” explained second year engineering student, Michael Campagnoni.

A Possible Boon For The Car Manufacturing Sector

Mr Altenhof, professor of mechanical & materials engineering believes the project has real world applications for the struggling auto industry as it continues to look for lighter-weighting solutions for vehicles and alternative fuels.


This article was originally published on EngineerJobs.com.au