Wilder-Waite had a first this year for its “World in Motion” car competition on Feb. 17.

Wilder-Waite had a first this year for its “World in Motion” car competition on Feb. 17.

Twelve Bradley mechanical engineering senior design students helped 20 groups of fifth-grade students make balloon cars while learning about friction, inertia and Newton’s three laws for a month.

“This is not the first year that we’ve done this program,” fifth-grade teacher Cheryl Wooden said. “But, this is the first year that we have been in collaboration with the Bradley University Engineering seniors.

“Bradley contacted us to see if their students could be involved, and we’re thankful because these kids can be told about physics, but to see engineers working makes it really fun.”

When the program started around Jan. 12, the Bradley students helped explain to the class what the science unit was about before having the students build templates of the cars they were going to build.

After building a template, they got started building their actual cars.

“Once they got started building their actual cars, we helped them by making them more aerodynamic, depending on which part of the competition they were trying to go for,” Bradley team leader Devin Norton said. “Every day, we saw them find new things that worked better.”

At the end of the unit, the groups, consisting of three students each, took the cars they made and prepared to launch them.

During the contest, a student would blow up the balloon at the back of the car as much as they wanted before setting it down on the ramp and letting it go. After the car finished moving, three Bradley students measured how far it went and how far it was away from a middle white line.

Each group got two attempts. At the end of the second attempt their average distance and closeness to the line was calculated.

Wooden said the students always love this unit.

“As a teacher, it’s always great to see them learning, of course, but then there’s the extra bonus of them actually having fun while learning these important laws and principles,” she said.

At the end of the contest, certificates were given out to the teams that had the farthest distance, greatest average distance and straightest car. Two awards were also given out to teams that Bradley students chose as the best cars and students could vote on the most creative car as well.

“As a whole, we really enjoyed the experience of being able to do this for them,” Norton said.

He said that the students gained an understanding of how force works on cars, as well as how a balloon blown up the same amount with different weights can travel differently.

Meanwhile, Wooden said that working with Bradley has been wonderful this year.

“It’s been so great,” she said. “It’s just nice for me, as a teacher, to enjoy teaching these things and to have the Bradley students reinforcing what we’re teaching by saying, ‘You could use this when you get older. This is important.’ I think it’s opened up some eyes to the area of engineering.”

She added that the ideas this year have been “just a little better than in years past because the Bradley students are guiding them and giving them other options that they may not have thought of.”