It’s been a blustery few weeks here in Indiana. We have gone from a balmy February to a mild start to March, but as we approach spring break, it has been cold! All this up and down in temperatures has caused some extremely windy days. Like trees blowing over, branches falling, be careful when you go outside windy days! In fact, it is snowing today, but the forecast shows temps in the mid 50s in a few days. Welcome to Indiana.
On one of those days, after the wind was howling through the night, I decided to introduce Puff Mobiles to my elective class. This activity is easy to set up, and the students love it. Before introducing the activity, I do a brief overview of wind and wind power with my students. We discuss how wind generates electricity and the wind turbine (we have lots of these in our area!) We also recall how it was used for ships and boats as the first modes of transportation.
Then we get to the fun part–the Puff Mobile.
Students must design a vehicle that uses wind power from their own mouths to puff or blow their creation to the finish!The wind background info isn’t completely necessary for this one (but I like to include it), and it doesn’t really have a prompt or standard that it aligns perfectly with. But it is fun, works on engineering concepts and is easy to implement!
There are relatively few supplies needed, which makes it easy to prepare on short notice!
Each student (or student group) receives the following materials:
- 3 Straws
- 2 Paper clips
- 4 Peppermint Lifesavers
- One sheet of paper
- Tape (I limited the tape to about 50 cm so students don’t go crazy!)
Not all supplies must be used, but may no other supplies may be included.
Students get 3-4 minutes to plan out and sketch a design before actual construction. I do encourage students to stick as close to their sketch as possible. They are allowed to cut the straws and paper. Paper clips can be bent and twisted however students think necessary. Students can even color their paper if you have time! Construction takes anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes (depending on how much time you have!).
Once all was constructed, we set up a Puff Mobile tournament! We pushed the tables and chairs to the side of the room so we had a lot of open space down the middle. I drew brackets on the board (March Madness style) and pulled names out of a cup so students were randomly matched up. A start line and finish line are necessary, and the race can be as long or as short as you want!
Some rules we establish for the Puff Mobile Races:
- During racing, the vehicles must start and remain (as much as possible) on the ground. AKA – not paper airplanes.
- There is absolutely NO intentional moving, blowing, hitting, kicking, etc of another mobile in order to advance your own.
- As audience members, students may cheer and encourage, but may not touch or get in the way of anyone in the race.
- The teacher is the final judge. If mobiles somehow get stuck in the corner or turned, I can tell them to pick it up, turn it around or to “unstick” it.
I think it is hilarious watching the kids belly crawl across the floor, trying to puff their mobiles all the way across the finish line!
Kids have a blast, AND my floors are much cleaner after the races!