STEM activities for elementary children: How to make a car with a spool of thread


Thanks for joining the STEM trend on the Makersgeneration website. In this tutorial, we will focus on a hands-on project. It an easy, quick and cheap STEM project for kids to make at home. No batteries, or wires or electronics is needed for this project.

The project we are talking about today is a wheel on motion. Not any type of wheel. It's a spool of thread. Yes, a spool of thread that moves without a motor, a battery, a motor or even a gear. How is that possible?

Before we get more into on how it works, I just want to share the material you may need to get started. An you and your kids don't even need to go to the local dollar store. Here are the parts:

  • 1 spool of thread of course

  • 1 Popsicle stick

  • 1 thin rubber band

  • 1 small of piece candle (About half of an inch)

  • 1 match

To get started, you can remove the thread off the spool or keep it ( As you desire). With the help of your parents and a little knife, make two notches on one side of the spool.

Cut a piece of candle

Now take a candle, cut half a inch of it in the length.

Take a match and make a hole it the middle of the it. To know if the hole fits, try to make the rubber band go through it. If it can't cross in the candle, make the hole a bit bigger.

Popsicle stick

The next will be to take the popsicle stick and make two notches on one side of it like the following picture below.

Assembling of this puzzle

Now it's time to put it all together. Get the spool and place the match in the notch.

Pass the rubber band through the spool like the picture below. And block it on one side through the match

On the other side of the spool, pass the candle through the rubber band through the candle

Once through the candle hole, bring the popsicle stick and tight it with the rubber band.

How to make it work

Hold the spool in one hand and turn the the popsicle stick with your finger clockwise. Do it until it becomes slightly hard. Put it on a table or on the floor and it should move by itself. If it's not the case, keep turning the stick until moves by itself.

I don't know if you remember, but back in the day, there was a bunch of McDonald's toys that worked with a little gear that you could turn maybe for 5 seconds and it was then moving. That's the same thing with our project. The exception is that it's not a a gear but a rubber band that propels it. The rubber band is twisted by turning the popsicle stick.

When the the stick is released and the spool put on the ground, it moves by itself while the rubber band tries find it's initial position.

What else can be done with the spool project

A couple of things can be tested and experimented. One of them can be:

  • Test the 2 cars by doing a race

  • Make a obstacle race

  • Make 2 spool fight

  • And more

You can share any ideas you may have. Or even share with everyone the projects you have made.

STEM summer camps and workshops (online)

More online STEM events are coming next months for your children such as:

Newsletter, follow, subscribe and like the social medias

Subscribe to the newsletter and Social medias for updates Don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of our website '''' for more events, tutorials and freebies.

Subscribe to the Facebook group if you have yet registered. Content and tutorials are shared daily: Create and build STEM project for kids

We can be reached at: if any questions.

See you on soon.