After a new speed record and a dramatic crash at Talladega Motor Speedway in 1985, NASCAR needed to limit the speed of cars to race more safely the next season. Students are shown one solution to the problem: restrictor plates. Students question how restrictor plates keep cars from reaching speeds of more than 200 miles per hour, which creates the need to investigate how a heat engine works. (Lesson provides teacher directions for constructing a simple heat engine using everyday materials.) Students create and use models to predict how changing variables affect the heat engine. They develop and apply ideas about chemical reactions and energy to explain how the restrictor plates introduced in the 1986 season reduced speeds of NASCAR race car engines at Talladega and other superspeedways.
Heat engine materials
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