Chemical Reaction Car Recycled STEM Project

Get ready for one of the most fun STEAM projects out there! This upcycled Chemical Reaction Car gets its boost from a fizzy chemical reaction! It’s perfect for after school learning with an exciting spin or scouts or maker club at school. All you need is a few simple supplies to get rolling!

Kids will love building and learning with this Chemical Reaction Car. A science experiment gives the car its go. Perfect STEM project for scouts or school!
Kids will love building and learning with this Chemical Reaction Car. A science experiment gives the car its go. Perfect STEM project for scouts or school!

What Makes this Car Go?

This car is an awesome way to see science and engineering in action. First up, you have to build the car using wheels, one of the types of simple machines. Next, your car needs some power! Leave it to a chemical reaction to make it roll. When the baking soda (a base called sodium bicarbonate) and the vinegar (an acid) mix together, they react and release carbon dioxide (CO2). The pressure inside the bottle builds from the CO2 and escapes through the hole in the cap. The force exiting the cap causes an equal and opposite force in the other direction, causing the car to roll.

Chemical Reaction Car Supplies

Be sure to get a bunch of baking soda and vinegar for this fun activity. You’ll want to race it over and over again!

  • Water bottle (square one is best)
  • 1 straw
  • 1 bamboo skewer
  • Scissors
  • 4 plastic caps
  • 4 pony beads
  • Glue gun or other glue
  • Duct tape
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Tissue paper
Earth Activities for Kids green background with pictures of yellow paper hive on black, pour painted earth, and cardboard sculpture

How to Build the Chemical Reaction Car

  1. Preheat the glue gun. Caution! Glue guns are hot and adult supervision is required! You can use other glue if desired.
  2. Gently insert the hot tip of glue gun into the center of the water bottle lid, melting a hole in it.
  1. Cut the paper straw in half.
  2. Cut the bamboo skewer with scissors into two pieces, 1 inch longer than the straw pieces.
  3. For each wheel, glue a pony bead into the center of the inside of the wheel.
  4. Put some glue into the middle of the pony bead and insert one end of the bamboo skewer.
  5. Insert the bamboo skewer into the paper straw and glue the other end of the bamboo skewer into another wheel.
  1. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the second axle.
  2. Duct tape the two paper straws to the bottle like axles.
  1. Duct tape the two paper straws to the bottle like axles.

Watch the Chemical Reaction Car in Action!

Be sure to watch this this assembly and racing video. There are a bunch of tips and tricks to make it a successful activity session.

How to Race the Chemical Reaction Car

Be sure to take this OUTSIDE! It gets messy. Also, racing the car involves a lot of trial and error, so be prepared for the fun of success AND failure.

  1. Twist open the water bottle and pour 1 cup vinegar into the water bottle.
  2. Cut a 5”x4” rectangle of tissue paper and pour in 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Roll up and fold the ends so the baking soda doesn’t fall out.
  1. Now head outside!
  2. Place bottle upright and QUICKLY! insert baking soda package into the bottle and close the cap.
  3. Shake the bottle and place car wheels on the ground.
  4. Let it ride!
  5. watch the video for troubleshooting tips and tricks!

Fun Ways to Take This Project Further

  • Can you design a tool that helps add the
  • baking soda faster?
  • Conduct an experiment to find the best ratio of vinegar to baking soda. Measure the distance the car travels, time it travels, direction it
  • travels and compare.
  • Can you make your car more aerodynamic to make it travel further? Try adding fins or other features and test.

More Learning Fun Kids Love!

This chemical reaction car is a sneak peek into our Earth STEAM Explorers ebook! Kids will love learning about our planet and environment with gravity painting, honeybee geometry, flower art projects, earth snacks, and more! You’ll love the standards-based hands-on learning and easy to use printables.

More Fun Engineering Projects!

Kids love building? Check out this amazing resource filled with a whopping 50+ Engineering Projects for Kids.

How to Build a Balloon Car – Kids love engineering their own air-powered car made from recyclables!

Build a cardboard replica of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge with this DIY Suspension Bridge.

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