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Because you can choose any theme, this project can inspire people with a range of interests.

Art Cars

Design a minature car. You can create a telephone car, a soccer car, a merry-go-round car, or any other theme car you can imagine.
stuff you need
  • Styrofoam, heavy cardboard, or a box (to make the body of the car)
  • Two wooden dowels (for axles)
  • Plastic caps or other round disks (for wheels)
  • String or yarn (to pull it)
  • Art and recycled materials (to decorate your car)
If you want to add and program moving parts, you'll also want:
  • LEGO gears or other building materials
  • Motors, sensors, and cables
  • Cricket or LEGO Mindstorms

What kind of mini art car do you want to make?

Here's an example: a "telephone art car" decorated with phone book pages, an old toy telephone toy, and scrap phone wire (made by Roger at the Science Museum of Minnesota).

First, make the sides of the car. Cut two pieces of styrofoam into whichever shape you want for the sides.

Then, cut a rectangular piece for the car "floor."


Use the wooden dowels to punch holes through the styrofoam, and make front and back axles for the wheels.


Before he put the wheels onto the axles, Roger decorated his car. He covered the sides pieces with pages from the phone book, and hot-glued the toy telephone onto one side.

You can decorate your sides now. Or, you may find it easier to decorate your car after you build it.

Now that you have both axles in place, add the wheels.

Depending on what you are using for wheels, you may need to punch holes in the center for the axle to go through (Step 1). Then fit the dowel through the hole to make the axle (Step 2) and glue it into place (Step 3).

Roger used plastic lids for wheels. You could also use plastic or wooden tinker toys, the bottom of a plastic or styrofoam cup, or LEGO wheels if you have them.

Hint: Make sure that your wheels are big enough to lift the car off the ground.

After you have the wheels on, add a floor to the inside of the car. If you put it on the wheel axles, the wheels won't turn. So, add the floor about an inch above the wheel axles. Insert three dowels into the side foam pieces to support the floor.
Before gluing the floor down, add add some yarn so you can pull your toy along the floor.
Secure the floor to the floor supports with hot glue.

Once you have your car built you can add a moving sculpture to ride inside.

Roger used LEGO pieces to build a machine that moves the attached phones in and out. You can find directions for building your own motion machines.

Here's the LogoBlocks program Roger wrote for his machine. It turns on motor "a" for one second. Then it reverses the motors direction (rd) before repeating.
Now that you have your cricket programmed - set the scupture inside the car and your ready to go!

- Motorize your car as well as the sculpture inside.
- Make your car interactive by adding a sensor!
- Build an obstacle course for your car to go through.
- Have a mini art car parade with your class or group.

Thanks to the students in Karen Thimmesch's classroom at the Museum Magnet Schoool for sharing their art car projects!
What else
Read more about the Museum Magnet School students and their projects.
Learn to build a simple moving toy
Read about art cars and the people who make them.

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