Photograph of jigsaw puzzle pieces.

CareerStart lessons: Grade seven

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learning outcomes

Students will gain an understanding of the relationship between design and speed.

Teacher preparation

Time required for lesson

One to two 45-55 minute class periods

Materials needed

  • Optional: Computer with internet access to display clips of NASCAR race or drag race
  • Racing materials:
    • Various toy cars (E.g. Hot Wheels) and five meters of toy car track (E.g. Hot Wheels track)
    • OR various sized marbles and pipe insulations if toy cars or track are unavailable.
  • Five stopwatches
  • Plastic cup
  • “Wheelin’ Fun” data sheet — one copy for each student


Pre-lab discussion

  1. Take a poll of the class: How many students have been to a car race or drag race? What do the students like about them? (Many students may mention the speed of the cars.)
  2. Show a clip of a drag race, NASCAR race, or school bus race. (Look on United Streaming or
  3. Ask the students to make observations about how the vehicles’ shape relates to their speed.

“Wheelin’ Fun” lab

  1. Hand out the “Wheelin’ Fun” data sheet for students to record data. Tape one end of the five-meter track to a clean spot on the wall two meters from the floor. Tape a cup to the end of the track at the five-meter mark to collect the car. Mark off the track at one, two, three, and four meters.
  2. Assign the following jobs to the students: driver, timer one, timer two, timer three, timer four, timer five, recorder one, recorder two, recorder three, recorder four, recorder five.
  3. Have the driver put the car at the starting point of the track. Instruct the driver to let go of the car and all timers to start timing. As the car passes the marks one, two, three, four, and five, have the timers stop the time at their mark (timer one stops at mark one, etc.) The recorder will record the time in the data table for that trial.
  4. Repeat step three for trials two and three.
  5. The recorders will share the data with the timers and the rest of the class.
  6. Students will answer the questions about the data collected and graph the results.

Post-lab discussion

  1. Discuss the lab results with students. Students should see how the design of the cars will affect their speed. The class can also discuss that friction, inertia, and gravity are acting on the cars. You may also tie in Newton’s laws. (For background information on Newton’s laws, see Benjamin Crowell’s Newtonian Physics website.)
  2. You may choose to have the class view the racing clips again and use their data to describe the motion and speed of the cars in the clips.
  3. Close the discussion by talking about the careers associated with NASCAR and auto mechanics that would use this information about speed and design. Examples of some careers in NASCAR:
    • NASCAR Technical Inspector Official: Responsibilities include learning the NASCAR Rulebook as it applies to inspection and race procedures, knowing the field of mechanics. Willingness to travel — especially on weekends — is crucial.
    • Base Chief Pilot: The official pilot of a team. Base chief pilots are required to live within one hour of the airport.
    • Software Engineer: Responsibilities include creating and documenting conceptual and detailed designs and writing codes specializing in timing and scoring.


    Optional resources for more information on the topics covered in this lesson

    NASCAR Job Positions
    This article from the Stock Car Racing website discusses jobs available in NASCAR and explains the educational requirements needed to get those jobs.
    NASCAR Technical Institute
    The Nascar Technical Institute (NTI) is a 48-week core program teaching general Automotive Technology with a NASCAR engine racing component.
    Motorsports Schools and Technical Training
    At this website, students can find technical schools where they can train for careers associated with motorsports: mechanic, technician, truck driver, mobile electronics installer, race mechanic, and sales and management.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 7

  • Goal 1: The learner will design and conduct investigations to demonstrate an understanding of scientific inquiry.
    • Objective 1.01: Identify and create questions and hypotheses that can be answered through scientific investigations.
    • Objective 1.06: Use mathematics to gather, organize, and present quantitative data resulting from scientific investigations:
      • Measurement.
      • Analysis of data.
      • Graphing.
      • Prediction models.
  • Goal 6: The learner will conduct investigations, use models, simulations, and appropriate technologies and information systems to build an understanding of motion and forces.
    • Objective 6.03: Evaluate motion in terms of Newton's Laws:
      • The force of friction retards motion.
      • For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
      • The greater the force, the greater the change in motion.
      • An object's motion is the result of the combined effect of all forces acting on the object:
      • A moving object that is not subjected to a force will continue to move at a constant speed in a straight line
      • An object at rest will remain at rest.
    • Objective 6.05: Describe and measure quantities that characterize moving objects and their interactions within a system:
      • Time.
      • Distance.
      • Mass.
      • Force.
      • Velocity.
      • Center of mass.
      • Acceleration.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Science & Technical Subjects

        • Grades 6-8
          • 6-8.LS.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.P.1 Understand motion, the effects of forces on motion and the graphical representations of motion. 7.P.1.1 Explain how the motion of an object can be described by its position, direction of motion, and speed with respect to some other object. 7.P.1.2 Explain...