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Spool Racers: Homemade Wind-Up Toy

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Spool Racers are one of my favorite things to make with my kids. It is a homemade wind-up toy and kids LOVE them! I have made these spool racers so many times over the years and realized recently that I have never posted about them! What’s super cool about these is that they are a fun toy and a science lesson all in one.

How to make Spool racer toys

What is a Spool Racer?

A spool racer is a cool homemade wind-up toy. The basic spool racer design is made from a wooden spool, and they actually race across the floor or table. It’s most fun to make a few of them and race each other to see whose is fastest!

How to Make a Spool Racer

spool racer supplies

To make a home-made spool racer, you’ll need a few simple supplies:

Wooden Thread Spool~ we painted ours just for fun. You can get these on Amazon, or save your old thread spools!
Rubber bands
Masking tape
Metal washers

You start by threading a rubber band through the center of the spool. It is tricky to get it through, so I usually grab the rubber band loop with a toothpick to pull it through the hole of the spool. Don’t pull it ALL the way through, though! Make sure to leave the rubber band’s other loop hanging out.

Break your toothpick in half to thirds depending on the size of your spool. Thread it through the end of the rubber band to keep it from pulling all the way through. Put a piece of masking tape on the end of the spool to secure it.

how to make a spool racer

On the other side, put the rubber band through a metal washer, then put a toothpick through the rubber band.

How To Make It Go

Wind up the rubber band and toothpick. You will need to wind it and twist it for a little while until the twisted rubber band is tight and curled. The direction you wind it will determine the direction that the spool will go. Test it a few times to figure that part out!

Once it is wound tight, just let it go and it will spin in a circular motion making it race across the floor or table!

STEM toy- spool racer

What is the Science Behind This Project?

This is a perfect example to learn about the different types of energy: potential energy and kinetic energy.

Potential energy is stored energy. When you are winding up the rubber band, it will store potential energy, or elastic potential energy. Once you release it, it becomes kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. You can easily explain these two types of energy while making this wind up toy with the kids!

Make it more of an engineering challenge in your classroom by giving kids some variables and different design criteria. Try making spool racer designs with different components. Instead of the toothpick, use a pencil. Try different sizes of spools and rubber bands to see which works better. Try them on ramps vs. flat surfaces to see what works better. Do they go in a straight line?  Would spool racers be an effective transportation method? Have your students create vehicle designs powered by this elastic energy.

spool racers toys for kids

See More Fun Homemade STEM Toys From My Site:

Shooting Star Spinner
Gravity Spinner Rocket
Homemade Catapult
Bubble Shooter
Cardboard Tube Rocket Blaster
Penny Spinners

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