Making a zip line is a fun engineering task that will help your student apply physics at any level, from preschool, to elementary school, to middle school, and on through to high school!

Note: My second grader did this project, but I would also consider assign it to high school physics students and ask them to justify their design based in the concepts of force and momentum.

STEM project for elementary, middle school, and high school students!

### Engineering an initial design

My child's choice of string was based on his experience with a hanging a pumpkin several weeks ago. He chose send a rock from our back deck to the soccer goal, and we also tried sending a pine cone.

### Identifying and correcting weaknesses

After he had the opportunity try his creation several times, I asked him what the main problem was with his design. He answered friction. I asked how he would like to fix this problem. He said some oil would fix it.

He was pretty happy  with the result of adding a little vegetable oil to the hanger.  It flew!

If you would like to do a zip line engineering lesson with your child, here is how.

Materials:

• String
• Scissors
• A rock
• A high and low area (We used the deck and the soccer goal, but you could just as easily use the top of a cabinet and a chair.)

### Lesson Plan for Zip Line Engineering

1. Begin by asking our child to build a zip line for the rock.  This in itself will build some experimental skills.

2. After the zip line has been tested ask what he (or she) thinks is the biggest problem with the design of the zip line.

3. Ask how the problem could be fixed.

4. Let him test his solution.

If this type of project is new to your child, you may need to provide example "problems" a few times before they learn to critique their own work. Feel free to copy our example this time, and ask how to reduce the friction.  (Friction is the force that opposes motion between to surfaces that are sliding past each other.)

### Ways to extend learning with your zip line engineering project

1. Write a material request list.

2. Draw and label a diagram before building.

3. Draw and label a diagram after building.

4. Write a report about the strengths and weaknesses of this design and suggesting improvements.

5. Calculate the cost of the project.

I hope your children enjoy engineering their zip lines as much as mine did!

Christy McGuire is a former AP physics teacher, and current mother of 4. She and her children enjoy exploring science and math together. Head over to Thriving STEM to find more science, technology, engineering and math ideas to use with your kids.  Follow along on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

##### Beth Gorden

Beth Gorden is a homeschooling mother of six who strives to enjoy every moment with her kids through hands-on learning, crafts, new experiences, and lots of playing together. Beth is also the creator and author of 123 Homeschool 4 Me where she shares 1000+ free printables, creative homeschool lessons, crafts, and other fun ideas to help preschool and homeschooling families have fun while learning and exploring together.