National Science Teaching Association: Why Is Rubber Used to Build Race Cars?

Students investigate how easily objects made of rubber, plastic, and metal slide along a surface.

While students quickly figure out that NASCAR race car tires need to stick to (grip) the track to keep the car from sliding around the turns, they wonder why the tires need treads (structure). Students investigate how treads affect the motion of a rubber object and use their observations to determine the function of treads.


Rubber Investigation Materials—Teacher Demonstration

  • Investigation #1

– 1 metal baking pan

– 1 coin

– 1 plastic bottle cap

– ½ rubber eraser—smooth

  • Investigation #2

– 1 metal baking pan

– ½ rubber eraser—smooth

– ½ rubber eraser—cut with tread

– 1 small cup of water

  • Teacher set up will require the following:

– 1 box cutter

– 1 pen

Materials for Posters or Writing on the Board

  • Poster Paper and Markers OR
  • Whiteboard and Dry Erase Markers

Science Topics
Force (Frictional), Physics, Sports
Engineering Topics
K-6, Educator
Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade
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