Sail Cars

Time Required
1 class period
Students will construct and test small cars that are powered by the wind.


This activity demonstrates how wind can be used to propel an object. Students will build sails to catch the wind in order to move the Sail Car as far as possible. Experiment with the number, design, shape, and angle of sails to control the direction, speed, and distance of the Sail Car.

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • PS2.A Forces and Motion
  • PS3.A Definitions of Energy
  • PS3.B Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
  • ETS1.A Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem
  • ETS1.B Developing Possible Solutions
  • ETS1.C Optimizing the Design Solution

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect
  • Energy and Matter
  • Patterns

Learning Objectives

At the end of the lesson students will be able to

  • Design and build a functional Sail Car that moves as far as possible in the wind.
  • Be able to use the scientific method to isolate and adjust variables to design a sail car that travels as far as possible.
  • Understand how sails capture energy from the wind and transfer it into usable energy to propel a car forward.


  • Card stock
  • Skewers
  • Binder clip
  • Straws
  • Foam stickers
  • Craft balls
  • Prepared corrugated plastic sheets
    • You can use any size and shape corrugated plastic sheet. Typically these are 8"x4" with a pointed tip but you could make them any size you like. Make sure the flutes are going across the car so you can insert the axels!