The gravity cruiser is a prototype toy presented by the fictitious toy company EarthToy Designs. The engineering and design of the toy is incomplete, and student design teams are asked to complete the design process. These design teams provide many of the services required for the toy product to move to the next stage of development. The teams will do product testing and engineering and create their own cruiser designs.
In this challenge, students will focus on understanding the relationships between the "sweep" of the lever arm, the number of winds the string makes about the axle, and the distance the gravity cruiser travels. They will also investigate how the diameter of the wheels, the diameter of the axles, and the amount of weight placed on the lever affect the gravity cruiser's speed and distance. The interplay of these factors is not simpleit offers a rich challenge in critical thinking while at the same time providing an enjoyable "vehicle" for learning how to use the experimental method to test hypotheses and solve a tricky engineering problem.
After learning how to control the performance of this toy through a series of controlled tests, student design teams create their own customized toys. The set of toys that students design will be presented at the end of the challenge.