Jet Propulsion Rocket Car Challenge

by bsteinbach, published

Jet Propulsion Rocket Car Challenge by bsteinbach Jun 12, 2016

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Racers start your engines!! Design, print, and build your very own Jet Propulsion Rocket Car (JPRC) to race against the other teams in the JPRC Classic!

Using your creativity, TinkerCAD software, and our 3D printer to create the body, wheels, and engine (balloon nozzle) for your JPRC. Design your JPRC for speed! For distance! For best design!

YouTube Example Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26x4hF8ipLo


Overview and Background

Created as group design challenge to engage and motivate students to , each team will collaborate to design and 3D print, a wind propelled race car to be entered in the challenge’s culminating race. The winner will be determined by whose vehicle goes distance in the fastest time

This project allows for collaboration and communication between students, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. Created to be a Design Thinking Challenge, each team will collaborate to design and 3D print, a wind propelled vehicle to be entered in the culminating race.


Students will understand and demonstrate:

  • Collaborative Design
  • 3D CAD Design
  • 3D Printing

Student will be demonstrate:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Collection of Information

This project is geared towards 6th-8th grade students.

Elementary Students: Students in grades 2-5 may find it necessary to have more guidance with their project design. Teachers may want to limit student 3D printing to the wheels only.

High School Students: Students in grades 9-12 may find that they are able to design their cars in SolidWorks or other 3D CAD programs. In addition, students could be challenged to find a way to incorporate their balloon nozzle into the car body.


ISTE Standards - Students

  1. Creativity & Innovation
    b. Create original works as a means of personal or group expression
    c. Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues

  2. Communication & Collaboration
    a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
    d. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or to solve problems

  3. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, & Decision Making
    a. Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation
    b. Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
    c. Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions

  4. Digital Citizenship
    b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity

  5. Technology Operations & Concepts
    a. Understand and use technology systems
    c. Troubleshoot systems and applications
    d. Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies

Lesson Plan and Activity

Day 1 - Project Overview

The first day’s focus is on introducing the challenge to students. Teachers should expect to give an overview of the project and find a "hook" to get students excited. We suggest using this YouTube video called How a Top Fuel Dragster Works. During the first day you will also want to discuss the materials being used and the goals for your version of the project. You will want to decide ahead of time what level of design you want students to work with. Split students into groups of two or three. Students should use the remainder of the first day to brainstorm project ideas. You will also want to have students create a copy of the Design Journal for their daily reflection.

Day 2 - Brainstorming and Tinkercad Tutorials

The second day should focus on students brainstorming and starting to design their initial ideas for their rocket cars. This may include the wheels (basic), the body and wheels (intermediate) or the body, wheels, and nozzle (advanced). In addition, if students are unfamiliar with Tinkercad they may want to do some of the tutorials built into the website. We recommend the following tutorials:
-Learning the Moves
-Camera Controls
-Creating Holes
-Scale, Copy, Paste
-Die on the Workplace
Don't forget to have students document their work in their Design Journal!

Day 3-9 - The Design Process

The meat of this project will take place on days 3-9. During this time students will prototype their wheel, body and balloon nozzle designs. If possible, students may print during class. You should expect wheels to take roughly 45 minutes for a set of 4. The body can take up to a few hours to print. The balloon nozzle can take an hour to print. You may limit iterations of a design based on printer availability. Make sure to have students take pictures of their prototypes each day.

Day 10 - Race Day

In advance of the race day, ensure that students are aware of the criteria for the competition. You can choose to do longest distance, fastest car, straightest path, or anything else you can think of. We suggest having students blow up their balloons while attached to the balloon nozzle and twisting the balloon to hold the air in. When ready to move, have students untwist the balloon and watch their races fly! The final reflection in their design journal asks students to reflect on their design and what worked well and what they would improve upon in the future.

Duration of Lesson

This project will last roughly ten class periods based on 40-minute periods. Depending on the amount of student-created designs, extra time may be needed outside of this period for printing.


Resources Needed:

  • ¼” wood dowels cut into 2.5” lengths (2 needed for each race car)
  • *Alternative: wooden skewers from your local grocery store may work
  • Balloons (party balloons or water balloons can be used)
  • *Keep in mind the different capacity and elasticity of the balloon affects the challenge
    Scotch tape

Students should have basic knowledge of how Tinkercad works. Teachers may need to create accounts ahead of time for students using either Tinkercad or Project Ignite.

Rubric and Assessment

This assessment rubric can be modified to work within your program. The categories are general to ensure that this rubric will fit with many different types of classroom settings.

Handouts and Assets

JPRC - Assessment Rubric - Google Doc
This is the assessment rubric in Google Doc format for easy copying and modifying.

JPRC - Student Design Journal - Google Slide
The student design journal is useful for students to document their learning process over the course of this project.

JPRC - Makerbot Makeathon Chicago Presentation - Google Slide
This presentation will give you an overview of how (and why) we created this project for submission to the Makerbot Makeathon Chicago.


3D Model from 2D Image or Drawing Tutorial - Instructables

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