- Define the science of aerodynamics
- Explain how drag influences moving objects
- Identify the elements of a race car that create drag
- Pre-Assessment: Do You Know the Science of Speed?
- Build a Race Car Assembly Sheet
- Start Your Engines Activity Sheet
- Race Car Adaptations Resource Sheet
- Race Car Airflow Resource Sheet
- Aerodynamics on the Racetrack video
- Drag video
- Recycled or reused paper (2 sheets)
- Race car templates (1 per student)
- Card stock (1 sheet per student)
- Wheels (4 per student)
- Axles (2 per student)
- Index cards (1 per student)
- Plastic straw (1 per student)
- Make copies of the activity and resource sheets for each student in your class.
- Have students complete the Pre-Assessment: Do You Know the Science of Speed?
- Introduce aerodynamics—the study of the movement of air, specifically how it flows around objects such as cars and airplanes.
- Explain that NASCAR engineers study aerodynamics to improve the speed and safety of race cars.
Introduce the unit by showing students the Aerodynamics on the Racetrack video.
Move: How does the science of aerodynamics work?
Step 1: Call on three volunteers. Have one student drop a flat sheet of paper from about three feet up, while another times how long it takes to hit the floor.
Step 2: Have the third volunteer crumple the paper into a ball and repeat the experiment. Ask students to explain what happened. Note that the object’s shape affected how it moved through the air. The flat sheet of paper met resistance and moved slowly. Crumpling the paper into a ball reduced its surface area and caused it to drop more quickly to the ground.
Step 3: Explain that aerodynamics doesn’t apply only to objects. Ask students if they can think of sports in which people might bend to give their bodies less surface area or spread their bodies to make more surface area. You may show images of downhill skiers and speed skaters (smaller surface area); skydivers and hang gliders (larger surface area). Ask:
● Why might speed be desired in some sports and moving more slowly be desired in others?
Note: Test that the axles fit in the opening of the straws before the lesson. After the Drag activity, save the leftover piece of straw and the card stock for Lesson 2.
Build: What Is Drag?
Step 1: Point out that NASCAR engineers not only make cars superfast—they also make them safer. Explain that drag, or air resistance, is a force that occurs when air pushes against an object as it moves, slowing it down. Show students the Drag video.
Step 2: Pair students into pit crews of two. Hand out the car templates, Build a Race Car Assembly Sheet and the Start Your Engines Activity Sheet. Have students assemble the cars and complete the experiment. You can print out more car templates as needed using the template provided at scholastic.com/nascarspeed.
Step 3: Hand out the Race Car Adaptations Resource Sheet to support groups in answering the Conclusions questions. To wrap up, explain that, much like the index card in the experiment, the spoilers on NASCAR race cars create drag to slow them down and make them safer to operate.
Team Up: How does a race car’s design make it more aerodynamic?
Step 1: Give each group a copy of Race Car Airflow Resource Sheet. Instruct students to read the introduction, then mark three areas where air moves slowly around the car with an “S” for slow-moving air; and mark three areas where air moves quickly around the car with an “F” for fast-moving air. Answer Key: S, F, S, F, S, F
Step 2: To wrap up, challenge each group to write an explanation of how one of the features labeled on Resource Sheet A increases or decreases drag.