My boys are big Hot Wheels fans so challenging them to create a paper towel race track was a no-brainer! They loved seeing how fast they could make their cars zoom and I loved that the motivating STEM activity was helping them develop important engineering skills.
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The prep for our STEM activity was quick and easy. We gathered together the pile of empty paper towel rolls we’d been collecting. Then we pulled out a roll of Scotch washi tape and several of our skinniest Hot Wheels cars so they would easily fit in the tubes.
Note: Kids could easily build the race tracks on a wall but I wanted to ensure that the cars wouldn’t accidentally scuff ours so I had the boys build their tracks on a thick white poster board we picked up at the Dollar Store.
Making the Race Tracks
The boys (ages 4 and 6) started with a simple design: two long paper towel rolls angled so that the cars would launch from the top roll to the bottom. They attached each roll in place with several strips of tape. It took several small tweaks to get the angle just-so but, once they found the sweet spot, their cars zipped from top to bottom in a flash!
Feeling more confident in their engineering abilities, the boys decided to grab a pair of scissors and cut some of the paper towel rolls into smaller sections for added challenge.
They tested different angles and distance between each piece to find a combination that worked. When they found that magic combination, they eagerly dropped one car after another in the top tube and watched them zoom down the race track.
The Hot Wheels race tracks were a huge hit!