Rubberband Thrusters

STEM Learning Module
Ocean Exploration Trust

Propeller-driven thrusters maneuver ROV Hercules above the seafloor. Students will design rubberband-powered thrusters to race as fast as possible along a zipline track. Documenting and comparing designs challenges groups to identify the most successful solutions. Use this module as an inquiry-driven introduction to forces and motion or to the engineering design process. The module includes animations of ROV thrusters and a basic construction timelapse video for educators or younger students.

Objectives & learning outcomes

Students will:

  • practice the engineering design process. 
  • discuss the basics of propulsion using STEM vocabulary.
  • produce a thruster model powered by a rubber band and propellor to race down a racetrack as fast as possible.
  • understand how modifications to their design produce changes in the speed it can move.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Media heading
Lesson Set-up Video

Grade level

Grade level

Time & materials

Time & materials
Scale: two of three
Prep time involves some setup of materials & low-cost supplies.