Teaching Idea – CO2 Powered Cars
There’s nothing more fun than racing things at high speed! But how to do it in a safe, semi-controlled, educational manner? One great idea is using CO2 cartridges to propel balsa-wood based vehicles. Here’s some of the the details!
First of all, let’s look at a few of the creative cars. These babies are about a foot long, and the bodies are carved out of raw chunks of balsa. In order for the racing to be fair, wheels and axles can be provided for all the cars, so the emphasis is on body design and aerodynamics.
The secret to these cars is all of them must have a cavity in the back in order to accomodate a CO2 cartridge;
Then, all of the cars are equipped with small round hooks on the bottom of the body through which some monofilament is theaded. A long chunk of this fishing line is what keeps the cars on track. All that is then needed is a launcher!
You’ll probably have to purchase a launcher – they come in affordable manual models and incredibly expensive electronic versions! The launcher is mounted on a simple wooden frame, and you’re ready to go!
Wanna build and race your own cars? Here are some great sites to get you started:
- Science of Speed
- YouTube video of CO2 cars in action
- Example of a launcher
4 thoughts on “Teaching Idea – CO2 Powered Cars”
I would really like to know where one can buy the CO2 car launcher described in the pictures above. I have been searching for one just like it but cannot locate it anywhere on the internet. I teach at a small rural school with a limited budget so the fancier manual launchers from places like Kidder and electronic ones are out of rech for my limited budget.
Thanks, and great site by the way.
Tom La Rocque
FSL, Carpentry and Leadership teacher
Low Quebec, Canada
Hi Tom, thanks for your kind comments.
Cheap launcher kits a very hard to find – they used to be sold by Pitsco (formerly Advance), but now the cheapest they have is a EZ Start Gate launcher for $275.
A very primitive launcher can be made with just plywood and nails, but you probably want something better than that. There are some pretty good instructions for making one yourself at woodshopcowboy.
Good luck with your CO2 car races!
So where can we order the metal thing pictured and how much was it? Thanks.
Yeah, that simple metal launcher does not seem to be for sale anywhere anymore, sorry. The best I can do is point you in the direction of the pitsco easy laucher: http://www.pitsco.com/EZ_Start_Gate