Maker Racers: Cardboard Race Cars with 3D Printed Gears and Springs Aim to Educate Our Youth

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makerracer7When I was younger, my brother and I would constantly be competing against each other, whether it was in sports, education, video games, or just about anything else. One of our favorite pastimes was racing our slot-cars. It was more than just racing them though, as we were always looking to gain an advantage over each other no matter what it would take. Even though we had no clue what we were doing, we would try and modify our cars in whatever way possible, to try and make them go faster. We would spend hours on end doing this and I don’t have a single regret, nor does he.

A little while back, at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a representative of Volkswagen was discussing his company’s commitment to education at all levels. The company’s hopes and beliefs are that if they help educate children of their employees, those kids will grow up to also be good Volkswagen employees themselves. This idea got one man, named Hoyt Jolly, thinking. “Let’s make some rubber band powered cars that the kids can build and race,” Jolly thought to himself. “What better way to help kids connect with the automotive industry?”

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That’s where the idea for ‘GoTime Maker Racers‘ got started, but it was 3D printing that ended up providing a better solution than the original rubber bands could.

“After several months of development and seven different versions, the current Maker Racer contains up to twelve 3D printed gears and 3D printed torsion springs,” Jolly tells 3DPrint.com

Printing some torsion springs

Printing some torsion springs

Maker Racers are not your typical race cars. In fact they are quite unlike anything you have probably seen before. With bodies and wheels built from cardboard, these super lightweight vehicles run using 3D printed gears and torsion springs. With the correct gear ratio, Jolly tells us that these cars can travel a few feet under their own power.

“The plan is to develop a school program around the Maker Racer in order to introduce students to hands-on mechanical and physics lessons, while learning how to 3D print,” Jolly explained to us. “Many classrooms have access to 3D printers, but they lack a plan for how to use them. I am currently selling these cars on my site and also developing a 3d printer oriented course for the classroom. The course comes with several car kits, each containing enough gears for a few different gearing combinations. The kit will also have plans for more gears, which can be printed out in the classroom. Basically, the students will review the course material, decide which gear ratio that they want to use, print out the required gears, then test their Maker Racers to see how they perform.”

If this isn’t a great way to get kids interested in engineering and problem solving, I simply do not know what is. Undoubtedly kids will find this extremely fun, yet teachers and parents will realize the educational value of projects like this. At the same time, it’s also a tremendous way for schools that don’t know exactly what to do with their 3D printers to find an incredibly interactive project to work on.

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“I have found that schools do have access to 3d printers, but they are not sure how to use them in the classroom,” says Jolly. “By developing material and exersises that include 3d printers, I hope to help introduce students to this amazing technology. I feel very strongly that technological development starts with a personal curiosity, fueled by exploration and small successes.”

At Maker Faire

At Maker Faire

Jolly is constantly modifying his designs and gear setups to create cars that can run farther than their predecessors. Perhaps one day soon, we will see even more unique designs, and cars that can travel even greater lengths, created by students within various school systems. At least that’s what it appears to be Jolly’s goal.

What do you think about this unique creation? Have you tried creating anything like this before with your 3D printer? Discuss in the 3D Printed Maker Racer forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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