Middle school students are learning physics through model race cars.

Soft SkillsAt Salida Middle School, Tom Wright’s industrial arts classes have been making race cars from pinewood and propelling them by compressed oxygen.

The object of speed is not to see who wins, but to find out why. The 7 inch wooden cars are shot down a track and they slam into a barrier on the opposite side of the room.

“If there’s less mass, it’s faster. More mass means less speed, and if it’s more aerodynamic air goes more over it. But if it’s flat, air pushes it back,” explained student Antonio Trejo.

Antonio continue to explain that this is the reason why sports cars go faster than trucks – and that his first car will probably be a truck because having a flat front is safer.

The racers are powered by air. They bring science and engineering into the industrial arts class, which used to be called wood shop. The students start out learning how to work with band saws and power tools, and learning the safety and handling.  Then they make their racers.

“I try to take an engineering or design approach, while building on their math or science foundations,” said Wright.

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