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Afternoon Lab: Build a Cardboard Electric Car With Your Kids

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The time between picking your kid up from school and right before dinner is precious. The handful of hours you have before you both hit the hay is a chunk of time where some of the best bonding moments happen. Our suggestion: Turn this after-school time into an Afternoon Lab, filled with memorable activities you both can enjoy. We’re talking about building something together, something both of you will treasure, learn from, and make memories out of.

Something like a cardboard electric car. This simple, small electric car is made out of a cardboard box and real, simple electric motors. It’s going to take some teamwork, as well as a cardboard box, a glue gun, four smart car motors, a few wires, AA batteries, a battery pack, and lots of markers, crayons, and colored paper to decorate. Once you get started, you’ll wonder what you can tackle next in Afternoon Labs.

Step 1: Attach the motors.

Take your glue gun and glue on the four smart car motors to the four corners of the bottom of your cardboard box. That’s where the wheels will go when we’re ready for them.

Step 2: Wire the motors together.

You’ll just need black and red wires for this, and some tape. Loop and attach the black wires to other black wires, and red to red. This’ll create your circuit that will power your car. Tape the loose wires down so they don’t hang out.

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Step 3: Connect the battery pack to the wires.

Put four AA batteries in the pack, and glue it to the inside of the cardboard box.

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Step 4: Make room for the battery pack.

Use a razor to cut a hole in the box for the red wire on the battery pack to go through, and loop the wire through.

Step 5: Ready the on/off switch.

Use a pencil to trace a nickel on the back of the box. That’s where the on/off switch will go. Use the razor to cut a hole through along the trace. Place the switch in the whole, connect all the wires along the loop to the switch, and glue the connection. It’s a good idea to test if the motors run when you push the on/off switch.

Step 6: Place the wheels on each motor.

Step 7: Decorate.

Get crazy. Googly eyes, a tongue, whatever the kid wants. You’ll need a decent amount of colored paper for this.

Step 8: Take it for a spin.

Make sure the wheels are on tight and the motors each run consistently.