Upper elementary and middle school students with an interest in cars will find this oversize volume a treasure of clear illustration, historical background, and explanation. Although the publisher’s suggested minimum age (7 years) seems to be a stretch, any child who likes automobiles will be captivated by Car Science. The book was selected as an NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2009.
The author, Richard Hammond, may be familiar to cable TV viewers from his program, Top Gear, which airs weekly on BBC America. Hammond has organized this book into short sections, each of which could stand alone as a legitimate curriculum enhancement. He begins with a brief history of human transportation and the specific developments in steam-, electrical-, and, finally, gasoline-powered engines that led to the automobile age. Students will have a delightful visual experience with excellent explanations showing them exactly how automobiles generate power.
Car Science includes material on the principles of oil and gas production, applications of Newton’s Laws of Motion to automotive technology, multiplication of power through the use of gears, how cars obtain maximum speed without huge increases in size or weight, the concept of airflow as it has developed over the years, and how designers overcome friction within a car’s operation; any or all of these will be useful adjuncts to a physical science course of study. Every classroom has some students who are enamored with monster trucks and all-terrain vehicles, and these have special sections devoted to them.
Hammond treats the science of skidding and car crashes in detail, so students will see the applications of mechanical engineering in adding safety features as a concern in car manufacture. The electric car and fuel cell technology also receive attention as possible trends of the near future, and the author explores features of some of the current “concept vehicles” one sees at car shows. A clear and thorough glossary may even come in handy for a teacher whose mechanic throws out vocabulary about torque, hydraulics, and differentials in describing the repairs needed on his or her vehicle.