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Wheely good models

Design and make a model vehicle, then have a race. You’ll have to work together to problem solve if you want to win!
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Paper drinking straws
  • PVA glue
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape
  • Wooden skewers
  • Bottle lids or wooden wheels
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Working wheels sheet
Working wheels
PDF – 138.2KB

Before you begin

  • You could ask everyone to collect bottle lids and boxes at home.
  • Put all of the materials in one place (for example, on a big table) so everyone can see them easily.

Design it

  1. Everyone should look at the ‘Working wheels’ sheet, and the person leading the activity should help everyone understand the two different ways to make working wheels.
  2. Split into teams of six.
  1. Each team of six should talk about the sort of wheeled vehicle they’d like to make. For example, they could choose a car, a moon buggy, or an emergency service vehicle.
  2. Each team of six will build three versions of their vehicle, then choose one to enter into the final race. Each team of six should split into three pairs; each pair will make one vehicle.
  3. Each pair should think about their specific design (including how they’ll make their working wheels), and make a list of the materials they’ll need to build their vehicle.
  4. Each pair should visit the materials and take what they need. They should think about everyone else too, and make sure they leave plenty of materials for others.

Make it

  1. Each pair should start by making and testing their wheels. They can ask a helper to help them with the tricky bits (such as making holes and gluing).
  2. Each pair should make the main body of their vehicle.
  3. Each pair should attach their wheels to the main body of their vehicle. They should make sure they attach it in the right way, depending on the wheels they chose to make. Does their axle need to spin, or stay still?
  4. Each team should test all three of their finished models. It’s OK if they don’t work perfectly first time; part of model-making is finding problems and solving them. Everyone should work together and share ideas to make all of the vehicles as good as they can be.
  5. Each team should decide which of their three vehicles they’ll enter in the final race. They should choose the one they think will be fastest.

Race it

  1. Each team should choose one person to race the team’s model. Everyone else should watch the race as a spectator, and cheer on their team.
  2. The person leading the game should set up the race. They may mark a start line using chalk or masking tape, or they could even make a ramp for everyone’s vehicles to travel down.
  3. Racers should take it in turns to set their vehicles off. If there’s a ramp, everyone should let their car go from the same height. If there isn’t a ramp, everyone should give their car one push from behind a start line.
  4. The person leading the game should measure how far all of the vehicles have travelled.
  5. Everyone should repeat steps three and four so each vehicle has three attempts.
  1. The person leading the game should compare each vehicle’s best attempt. The one that travelled the furthest is the winner.


This activity needed everyone to problem solve. Designing and testing models is a great time to practice understanding problems, thinking about all of the options, then finding a solution. Did anyone have any problems when they were making or testing their vehicles? What did they do to solve the problems? It can be really frustrating when things don’t go quite right, so it’s great if people kept going and gave it another go. 

This activity also needed everyone to be a team player. In a good team, everyone has a role to play. Everyone should say one thing they helped with, and one thing someone else in their team was really good at. People’s ideas may include cutting, sticking, decorating, coming up with ideas, testing the model, or making sure no one was left out. Different people are better at different things, and the best teams are the ones where everyone uses their skills. Teams also had a tricky decision to make when they chose which vehicle to enter in the final race. How did teams make the decision? It can be difficult to work in a team to achieve a goal, so well done to everyone who did their best.



Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.