We all know we should do it, but many of us don’t.
No, I’m not talking about saving money, exercising, or watching less TV. It’s about the foam prototyping step in the CO2 dragster building activity. So many people ignore this step, whether they’re making a basic dragster for a class activity or a gorgeous Custom Cruiser for display.
If you are one of the guilty party, here are four reasons to start using those foam blocks:
1. Foam is cheap. Wood, not so much.
Wood blanks are an expensive way to learn a lesson about how not to cut a dragster blank. Foam is a more affordable way to do that.
For the budget-minded educator, making foam prototypes just makes sense. The likelihood of mistakes is higher if you don’t make a prototype. Wood blanks vary from $2.20 to $9 each, depending on wood and size. Foam blanks are $.60 each. So, what does that mean for your budget?
It means that if a student has a whoops moment twice before a successful finish and you have them using wood, the cost is $6.60. With foam prototyping it would be only $3.40. Extend that out to 20 students and six class periods a day and the savings can be $400 for this project alone when using the least expensive wood blank. If you use the most expensive blank options, your savings would be close to $700.
Plus, many kits that include the wood blank, hardware, and wheels also include the foam blank. Not using them is like throwing away money.
2. It helps students understand the cutting process before they cut into wood.
We all know that practice makes perfect, right? Well, prototyping a dragster is practice for the step-by-step cutting process of a car blank, which can be tricky and is often done incorrectly the first time around. The more practice your students have, the more successful they will be.
And if you aren’t teaching that as part of the dragster activity, you really should be. Otherwise known as the engineering design loop, this reinforces that engineering is as much about testing and redesigning as it is about the initial design. And the redesign can drive up consumables costs, so using foam helps keep these costs low.
In engineering, success is rarely achieved on the first try, so learning this through a fun activity such as CO2 dragsters helps teach that lesson early on. If you need a little more information about this process, check out this section on the Science of Speed website.
4. Because it doesn’t have to be messy.
Yes, some people use hand tools to shape the foam, which is possible but also terribly messy. Another option is a foam cutter, which melts through the foam with a super-fine heated wire and doesn’t create all the dust and foam crumbs that hand tools often do.
At the Science of Speed website, we offer two different cutters. The Aero Viz Foam Cutter is a smaller cutter that is good for more freeform cutting and is easy on the budget. However, though more expensive, the Free Hand Foam Cutter, with its 14" x 14" base, is better suited to the activity and offers positioning for square cuts as well as angled cuts.
A few of Pitsco’s cool staffers contributed their knowledge and time to this post. We’re proud to have a great group of developers, writers, managers, builders, and creatives who can help bring the Pitsco Blog to life.