Battery or Solar Panel Powered Car

With this activity students will learn electricity basics, how to create a simple circuit using a DC motor, AA batteries and a switch. The option of adding some led lights for an advanced project, converting the circuit into parallel, is always there.

They will also understand how energy transmission and conversion work, choosing between 2 types of cars:

  1. Battery Powered Car
  2. Solar Panel Powered Car

Materials will depend on the type of car the student choose:

  • 2 Straws
  • 2 Wooden Skewers
  • 4 Bottle caps
  • 3V DC Motor
  • AA Battery Holder with Switch or Solar Panel
  • Plastic Pulleys
  • 2 AA Batteries
  • 1 Rubber band
  • Any kind of box or container (for the body of the car)


  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Cutting Pliers
  • Pencil and paper

 Activity - Building an Electric Car

  1. Students should choose the type of car they would like to build.
  2. Give a pencil and a piece of paper to each student, or group of students, so they make their own design.
  3. Select the container (body of the car) that best suits to the design and type of car.
  4. Cut the straws an inch longer than the car body width.
  5. Cut the wooden skewers just a little longer than the straws and place them inside. These will work as axles.
  6. Grab 4 bottle caps and make a hole on them, right in the center. The size of the hole should be the same as the skewers thickness. 
  7. Hot glue only 3 wheels to the axles. Make sure you hold the wheels straight and vertical while the hot glue cools down. Leave the last wheel off until step 10.
  8. Grab the pulleys (the size is not extremely important) and attach the smaller one to the axle of the motor and the larger one to the axle of the wheel. If necessary drill a hole into the middle of the large pulley so the wooden skewer fits in.
  9. Slide the large pulley onto the axle where the fourth wheel will be located. Make sure to secure it straight using hot glue.
  10. Place the last wheel in position and secure it with hot glue to the axle.
  11. Stick the battery holder or the solar panel on top of the container. Make sure it is located on the opposite side of the pulley and the switch is accessible.
  12. Stick the motor on top of the container, making sure its pulley is lined up straight above the axle pulley. Connect the rubber band to the axle and motor pulley.
  13. Connect the black wire from the battery holder or solar panel to one of the terminals on the motor and the red one to the other one. Twist the wires to secure them.
  14. Add some batteries or place the car under the sun, turn the switch on and Race!!!



Encourage students to experiment different designs and solutions to stabilize the car. 

Is it running straight? Is it moving forward or backward? Try switching the wires so the Motor rotation changes its direction. 


    Analyze the results:

    What happens if they use different size pulleys?

    What if the size of the front and rear wheels is different?

    Which type of car is faster? Why?


    ISTE Standards

    4.c. Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.

    4.d. Students demonstrate perseverance when working with open-ended problems.  

    5.c. Students break down problems into smaller parts, identify key information and propose solutions.

    5.d. Students understand and explore basic concepts related to automation, patterns and algorithmic thinking.


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