Friday, January 6, 2012

Toilet Paper Tube Sail Cars

My previous post on sail cars made it onto Pinterest (edited: I'm now on Pinterest!).  I feel so crafty though it was such a clunky car.  It was a really simple car to make on the fly and could be made out of things lying around the house (ie. a contact sol'n box).  It can also occupy kids' attention for some time.

I've been debating about my next lesson with the preschoolers at J's school.  I really want to do sail cars, but I'd have to make 12-15 of them (and make them look identical so we don't have 15 grumpy 2-3 yr olds).  The little voice in my head kept saying cafeteria milk cartons, but they aren't easy to come by if you don't have older kids in school.  I thought about it some more and played with what we had lying around the house.  Enter in my new sail car made from recycled materials that are plentiful: toilet paper tubes and empty tissue boxes.

I actually think this one works much better than the quick sail car I threw together in October.

Toilet paper tube (or paper towel tube cut in 1/2 or 1/3)
Empty tissue box
Wooden dowel (I use skewer sticks with the tips cut off)
Popsicle stick (preferably a clean craft stick)
Masking tape

-Trace a circular object onto the tissue box cardboard (4 times) for the wheels***
-Cut out the 4 wheels
-Cut the two dowels 1/2 to 1 inch more than the diameter of the paper tube.
-Attach one wheel to each dowel (I press fit then masking tape it in place to the dowel) - make sure the wheels are straight.
-Single hole punch 4 holes for the axles - 2 in the front and 2 in the back (make the holes relatively straight across from each other and the front in line with the back holes).
-Insert wooden dowels in the holes and attach the other wheels (masking taping the wheels to the dowels if you so choose).

*Now you should have a car you can push around (even blow on the front of the tube to get it to move).  Test it to make sure your wheels are straight and the tube isn't touching the wheels.  You can also build a small cardboard ramp to let gravity drive the car.

Methods (cont):
-Cut out a sail shape from the tissue box.
-Attach sail to a popsicle stick via masking tape (tape front and back of sail to the popsicle stick).
-Carefully puncture the top of the tube with one pointy side of an opened pair of scissors.  I prefer the puncture to be perpendicular (90 deg) to the length. With only the top of the tube punctured, the sail won't be dragging on the floor slowing the car down.
-This new puncture should be just the right size to insert a popsicle stick.
-Reinforce mast with masking tape.

*Now blow on the sail and watch the car effortless glide across smooth surfaces (it still doesn't work well on carpet).

More fun activities with sail cars:
  • Put your car on a long coffee table.  Can you give it enough power to drive over the edge?
  • Navigate an obstacle course.
  • Have a friend stand on the opposite side of the table.  Blow on opposite sides of the sail.  Watch the car go back and forth between you two.  Have a competition on who can get the car to fall off first.

***I used a compass this time around for wheel drawing, which was nice since I had a pin prick where the center of the circle was.  In turn, my wheels seem to turn better this time time than last when I think I used playdough containers as my circle guide.  Yay for being a little bit of a hoarder when it comes to old math tools.  I don't think I've used it since high school.

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  1. Love this adaptation! We gave your first tutorial a try, but couldn't get it to work. I think I used cardboard that was too heavy? I'm sure getting my hands on a compass would help - I've wanted one of those a few times now!

  2. Awesome. I'm sorry the first go around didn't work for you. It's possible the cardboard was too heavy or touching the wheels, the wheels weren't straight, or the mast was dragging/not big enough (many variables). The popsicle stick mast works better too since there's more contact area for the sail and subsequent force on the car. Also, you don't have the problem of the mast hitting the floor causing friction since it's stopped by the underside of the tube. I might be gluing my wheels in place for the kiddies to help cut down on future frustration and destruction of the car. Happy sailing!

  3. where did you get your foam wheels along with center circles to rotate about wooden dowels (axle) or make them? then the wheels could rotate on the axles a bit more-
    a physical science teacher looking for inexpensive materials that would work for students to create their own cars.