Cars and Reference Point

Cars and Reference Point

Cars and Reference Point1

Students will create a car using little bits and then identify and describe the aspects of velocity

Duration: 1 class period ( 85 minutes )

Middle School (ages 11-13)


Physical Science
littleBits Basics

dc motor (1)
power (1)
motorMate (1)

cardboard 1
Glue 1
Tape 1



STEP 1 : Connect

Start with a question

“How can you tell something is moving?”

Allow students to think about it, and write down or draw their thoughts in their journals/notebooks/whiteboard etc. Have students share out, no more than 5 minutes for the whole thing.

Tell students that they will be building a car and give them guidelines on how you would like them to build it.

STEP 2 : Engage

Have students build their car. I give students a lot of freedom when building their car, but also provide guidance on what their car should have.

Construction Guidelines:

The vehicle must be made with household materials, not intended for the purpose for which you used them.
Mousetraps, legos, tinkertoys, construx, kinex, or similar toy car materials are not allowed.
Coffee cans, soup cans, soda cans are not allowed. (sharp edges)
Your vehicle should have at least 3 wheels.
Dimensions of the vehicle will be no longer than 50 cm. and no wider than 20 cm.
The mass of the vehicles should not exceed 500 grams.

Feel free to alter the guidelines as you see fit. You know your kids better than anyone else, and are aware of their abilities.

Have students plan first and draw what they are thinking, then allow the students to build their car. There is a worksheet for the students to complete prior to the construction. If you would like, you can give students advance notice so that they are able to bring materials from home. I tend to save cardboard as I get packages delivered to make sure there is enough materials for the students to use.

Allow for approximately 60 minutes for the construction of their car.

STEP 3 : Teach

Spend approximately 10 minutes on the definitions. Pause students where they are, and start with the concepts for the lesson.

Define what a reference point and motion is for students. Have students write the definition in their notebooks/journals.

Reference point – starting/ending point

Motion – comparison to a reference point.

Pose the question, how does reference point and motion relate to the cars that we made?

STEP 4 : Practice

Have students line up cars at a starting point, and notice where their cars move. Use a ruler, or the end of a desk, something to mark where they are going to start. A piece tape on the floor works well too. Motion is a comparison to a point. How did the car ‘s position change?

STEP 5 : Close

Have students clean up, and store the cars in a safe place. They will need their cars for the next lesson. End the class with this question,”. How can they make their car go faster?”