Recycled racer rally -- science after school

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Recycled racer rally -- science after schoolScience can be a lot of fun. Students at three local elementary schools who attend after-school programs put on by High Desert Leapin’ Lizards were presented with an intriguing project — and the Recycled Racer Rally was the result.

The three schools in the program are Pierce, Faller and Inyokern. Students in the program in Grades K to 5 were given boxes of “junk” items — recycled materials to use to build little racecars. Some students worked in teams, some individually — but all created some sort of vehicle.

At Theodore H. Faller Elementary School, students worked for two weeks, building their racers and decorating the cafeteria for their rally. Students created a sloping racetrack out of flattened cardboard boxes topped with black construction paper and painted yellow lines. The finish line was a netball backstop. Their advisor had a homemade checkered flag. Winners received small prizes, and all students got popcorn and lemonade.

Jasmine Craddock and Joyce Gurley teamed up with a third student, who was absent during the rally, and built their racer, “Buzzy,” with loving care. “We put a lot of work and decoration into it,” said Jasmine. “It took two weeks.

“At first, we couldn’t get the right wheels. Then we added a balloon in the back instead of on the top, so it would go faster. We tried to make it look beautiful and fast. Then we made signs to help us cheer.”

“We won second place,” said Joyce. “It was fun.”

Some groups of students experimented with different materials for wheels, to see which worked the best. Some used spools, plastic lids, sewing machine bobbins and even discarded CDs. Racers were augmented with balloons, paper pennants and lots of duct tape.

Michael Robinson, 10, showed off his racer equipped with CDs for wheels. “These twirl better than bottle caps,” he said. “They roll really good.” The racer’s body was an empty box. Michael was one of a team of six classmates, all of whom used CDs for their racers.

Kindergarten students made small racers from half-pint milk cartons laid on their sides and each equipped with one large spool as an axle.

In other experiments, students made boats out of aluminum foil and floated them in tubs of water. Then they added pennies one at a time, to see how many pennies each boat could hold before it sank.

A third project involved making paper chains, but the challenge was to see how to make the joints stronger, to see which method would be most resistant to tearing.

Advisors got the youngsters to talk about what they learned, the principles involved and the terminology.

“This is a culminating event. The kids made their projects, tested them, re-engineered them and tested them again,” said Tina French, program director. The event was part of Leapin’ Lizards’ “After School Education and Safety” and “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” programs.

Many parents were on hand with cameras, to document their children’s creative endeavors.

For more information on Leapin’ Lizards, visit

Story First Published: 2012-11-28