Science, mathematics, & cooperative activities with K'Nex®
- Ramps & inclines
- Coasters & ball runs - activities & suggestions
- Simple machines - activities & suggestions for
- Equal arm balance
- Free pulley system
- Incline plane
- Screw & auger
- Bridges - building & testing load & different forces
- Cooperative Building Activities with K'Nex
- Pictures of some K'Nex pieces
- Simple K'Nex vehicles - for down hill runs & coasters
This page includes ideas and activities that use K'Nex ® building materials to explore science, mathematics, cooperative learning, and team building. It includes models with: ramps, marble or sphere runs, coasters, simple machines, and bridges.
Supporting units and activities
- Motion unit with plans & activities
- Motion: force, gravity, acceleration, inertia, friction, & energy - unit plans & activities
- Relative position & motion plans & activities
- Science investigation directory
Ramps (incline) sample investigations - Down hill tracks
The K'Nex ® set Down hill thrill includes a track with a jump and one with four drops, the Devil's Drop course. This set was used for the investigations with the jump removed. Pages below include activities and teaching suggestion on motion and variables that affect: energy, energy transfer, speed, slope, mass, friction, gravity, and more.
The Down hill ramp, without the jump, is used in explorations of:
Ramp with jump
Down hill set
Building Hints: Building the structure is fairly easy. However, fitting the track together can be a bit tricky, as the track can slide a bit along the yellow rod. I found, it was easier to put the rod in the desired position and twist the yellow K'Nex a bit to position it toward the center of a track.
Focus Questions by categories
- Will the car jump through the ring?
- Will the car jump higher with more weight?
- Will the car jump higher with less weight?
- Is there an ideal amount of weight?
- Is it better with the weight in the front, middle, or back?
- Is the weight better in the center or on the left or right side?
- What angle is best for the highest jump?
- How far will the car jump?
- How does the amount of weight change how far it will jump?
- How does changing the angle change how far it will jump?
Jump and Roll
- How far will the car travel, after it leaves the ramp, till it comes to a complete stop?
- Does different amounts of weight make a difference?
- What happens if the car crashes into something (bale) at the bottom of the hill?
- How far can the car push a bale?
- Can the car crash into a bale and not move the bale?
- What is the least amount that the bale will move?
- How does adding washers to the bale change the distance it will slide when it is hit by the car?
- How does changing the angle change how far it will slide?
If you have two sets you can make two identical tracks and race one car against another. Or if you have an electronic timer, then you can time the runs.
- How does the speed change if one car has more weight than the other?
- How does the speed change if the height and slope of the ramp is changed?
- How does the speed change if only the slope or height of the ramp is changed?
Roller Coaster & ball run set activities
Coasters are different than the down hill ramps as they complete a circular coarse.
- Coaster and ball run activities - Investigations of motion & energy with roller coasters and ball runs. Includes investigation ideas, background information, teaching samples with focus questions and answers, illustrations, sample data in charts and graphs, and more.
- Rocket Coaster picture album and video - a K'Nex rocket coaster is a motorized roller coaster set.
Simple Machines and other ideas
- Equal arm balance
- Free Pulley System
- Inclined plane and pulley with wood ramp
- Screw & auger
- Bridge building challenge with K'Nex
Cooperative Building activities
A group cooperative learning activity can be made by selecting one of the K'Nex Projects that would normally be fairly time consuming. I have done the K'Nex® Big Ball Factory and have had Pre service education majors do the K'Nex® Merry-Go-Round & graduate students use the Ferris wheel set.
- Select the project and take the direction booklet pages apart. I usually have them laminated for protection.
- Show the class the project and ask if they would like to make it as a class.
- If they answer yes, show them the pages and ask how they could create a plan that would involve everyone in the class.
- Suggestions that usually are given are to give so many pages to each group, have them make what is on their pages, and then put the sections together.
- This usually works pretty good until they start to put the sections together. Then there are two interesting problems (common with all group work). 1. each group knows the section they made, but are unsure how it fits with other sections. 2. Each group has too wait for other groups so they can connect theirs, because it gets too crowded for everyone to gather around the final build.
- An interesting decision one class made after they started to put the sections together, was to pick one person to be an engineer to oversee and help the groups. They found out that it was pretty time consuming to have each group come up and try to figure out the plans each time. So they decided one person, who had a lot of experience building models could be assigned as a guide to show each group how their construction fit into the whole plan. Then as each group completed their sections they could be joined more easily as the engineer knew how the pieces fit together and sometimes certain sections were needed before other sections could be joined to the whole model.
- This helped as each group didn't have to look through the entire booklet as the chosen engineer could direct them to the page and reference the general area when their section was to be added. Then each group could go from there.
- This cooperative activity not only gave the learners a sense of accomplishment, helped to connect to each other as class, and learn some of challenges of group and team work that need to be met for teams and groups to be successful. Many weeks and months later students would refer to what they had accomplished as a class and the K'Nex® activity was often referenced.
Sets used for cooperative building
Big ball factory
Sample K'Nex ® pieces
Different sizes of rods