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Paper Bobsled: STE(A)M Olympics-Related Lesson

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I’ve discussed experiential learning in The Imperative of Experiential and Hands-On Learning and the lesson I describe in this post meets the characteristics I described in that blog post:

In an effort to engage students both in a STEM activity and learn more about the Olympics, I created a lesson on bobsledding.

Standards Addressed

As a STE(A)M lesson, it addresses cross-curricular standards:

Next Generation Science Standards (Science)

  • Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system [Grades 6-8]
  • Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the motion energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object. [Grades 6-8] (Source: http://teachers.egfi-k12.org/build-a-bobsled-racer/)

ISTE Standards (Technology)

(Technology is not heavily used in this lesson. Videos are used, though, to share content.)

  • Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

Next Generation Science Standards (Engineering)

  • Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.
  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

National Core Art Standards

  • Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Refine and complete artistic work

Math Standard (see math labs below)

The Hook

Students are shown the following videos to get them familiar with bobsledding (none of my students knew what it was) and the physics of bobsledding:

Making the Paper Bobsled and Track

I created the following tutorial to teach students how to make a paper bobsled and the track:

To build your track, you can use the following templates for your tracks: 

Math Connections

One or both of the following math labs can be added to the lesson:

  • Calculating Average Speed of a Rolling Marble (in this case – a bobsled) –
  • Roller Coaster Math

Process-Oriented Reflection Questions

Here are some questions for students to reflect upon during their making process:

  • What factors influence how fast your bobsled travels down the track?
  • Would your bobsled go faster if a lot or a little of the bobsled touched the track?
  • Would more weight increase or decrease the speed of your bobsled?
  • Would the position of the weight affect the speed of your bobsled?
  • What is friction and what influence does it have on your bobsled?
  • What is the Engineering Design process?
  • Why is it important to make one modification to your bobsled at a time?
  • What type of energy does the bobsled have when it is at the top of the track56half way down the track and at the bottom of the track?
  • Do you think that your bobsled would travel more quickly or slowly on a straight or hilly track? (Source: Design Challenge: Echo Base Bobsleds)

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 18, 2022 at 12:36 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Jackie, I hope you don’t mind me messaging you here, however I am trying to track down the original source of a cartoon that has been attributed to an old wikispace of yours on the following page: https://edtechtheory.weebly.com/constructivism.html
    It is the one titled “Acquisition Tool: Behaviorism vs. Constructivism Graphic”. Do you by any chance know of the original source? I am an academic librarian in Australia trying to track it down for one of my Education lecturers. Thanks for any help you can give!

    Liz

    January 27, 2022 at 4:47 am

    • Wow – that was a long, long time ago – sorry, I don’t know.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      January 29, 2022 at 2:42 pm


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