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Book Review

Kinetic Contraptions: Build a Hovercraft, Airboat, and More with a Hobby Motor

Elevators, blenders, ski lifts, and hair dryers all have one thing in common: they are operated by electric motors. Tinkering with an elevator might not be a possibility for a curious middle schooler fascinated by machinery, but hobby motors—small, inexpensive and easily accessible (free from an old toy?)—provide numerous options for hands-on experimentation.

In this book, Gabrielson describes projects intended to foster in students a passion for electrical experimentation as they construct more than 20 motor-powered devices.

With sections dedicated to creating machines that run on land, water, and air, as well as spinning machines (such as a snow globe) and bizarre machines (such as a bubble maker), the book has projects designed to appeal to everyone.

Students can learn about transmission physics and drive systems while making a car with a slew of junk-drawer items: batteries, binder clips, paint sticks, straws, a water bottle, rubber band, and checkers. With minor adjustments, the car can become amphibious or even be operated by remote control.

Each project in the book includes a materials and tools list, step-by-step instructions with photographs, and “The Science Behind It,” a section that explains the inner workings of each contraption in clear scientific terms. From making a hovercraft using a propeller and a Styrofoam plate to constructing a fan, each project emphasizes kinetic concepts in a logical, relevant way.