Edible Car Contest

The kid came home on Friday with an assignment to build an edible car.

There is an edible car contest on Thursday. The car needed to be built from edible materials we already have at hand in the house. It needed to roll down an incline and across the floor. Cars should be built with “minimal parental involvement.” The car that rolls the farthest wins. Bring your car on Tuesday for a trial run. Make adjustments before bringing it back for the race on Thursday evening.

With everything else going on here over the weekend, we found out about it on Monday morning right before leaving to get on the bus.

According to the note, the Silas had made plans for building the edible car. There were no plans. They were at school.

Monday afternoon, the plans had still not come home.

“How big a ramp is it?” I asked Silas.

“About this big,” he said. He held his hands about two feet apart.

Edible stuff already on hand in the house. That gives us nothing. The Cornflakes box is not edible. The fridge and cabinets are empty. We’ve had visitors. We’re cleaned out.

Going to have to bend the rules. The project will be completed with edible stuff we will make a special trip to the grocery to get.

“How big is it supposed to be?” I ask.

“Car size,” Silas says.

I’m thinking about what to use. There is a list of possible ingredients attached to the note. Most of the suggestions don’t seem like they’d hold up very well rolling down a ramp.

I’m thinking there needs to be some weight to it. Weight won’t make it go down faster (gravitational acceleration is a constant). But it will have more momentum (p=mv) when it gets to the bottom, so provided we can minimize rolling friction, it’ll go farther on the flat part of the track.

We need a winter squash. Long. Bell-shaped. As close to vertically symmetrical as we can find.

What for wheels? Larger wheels will be more stable. Cookies (the suggested wheel ingredient) wouldn’t support that weight. We need something hard. Big lolly pops.

Axles. Something that’s long and strong. The suggestion list has pretzel rods and candy canes with the hook broken off as suggestions. Both too brittle. Cinnamon sticks. They’re wood bark. They’re edible. How to get them to turn? Put them through Rigatoni axle sheaths.

We get all that stuff. Except the store doesn’t have giant lolly pops, so we’re stuck for wheels. We’ll just have to make hard candy wheels ourselves. So much for “minimum parental involvement.”

I spent four hours boiling syrup to hard crack stage. Poured them out into muffin tins. Inserted the cinnamon stick axles into them so they could fuse right into the wheels. It was 8:00. We hadn’t had dinner yet.

After dinner, the wheels had cooled. We started assembling.

Bet you’ve never power-drilled ½-inch holes into a bell squash before.

Inserted rigatoni into axle holes to make shafts. Then put the axles through.

It would have worked if the heat from the 300° liquid candy hadn’t turned the inserted ends of the cinnamon sticks to powder. The wheels fell right off. At least they smelled good.

There we are. It’s past bedtime. We have a beautifully drilled squash, and no axles.

What can we do?

Brooke points out that there’s an old limp cucumber in the vegetable bin. It doesn’t weigh as much. Maybe use that.

We do. Because it’s going on 10:00, and every store closer than 50 miles from here is closed, and it has to be on the bus tomorrow morning.

Bet you never power-drilled ½-inch holes in a half-rotten cucumber before.

Inserted rigatoni. Stick fresh cinnamon sticks through the sheath to make an axle.

Power-drilled holes in Oreo cookies. Stuck cookies on ends of axles with gumdrops. Done.

Never mind that the cucumber will probably disintegrate into moldy glop by Thursday. Or that the Oreo cookies will crack off at the bottom of the ramp after the first run. It’s an edible race car. Ingredients that were, after all, on hand.

And maximum parental involvement.

Update 3/7/14: Results of the contest are here.

3 thoughts on “Edible Car Contest

  1. Perhaps you can just say “This cantaloupe is the car,” and presto! you’re done. It will survive the inclined plane, will roll farther than anything anyone else comes up with, is cheap, and no assembly required. That’s me…always looking for the loophole.

    • I had a similar thought about using a bowling ball shaped chunk of ice. (They’re allowed to store their cars in the school freezer.) The difficulty with that plan is convincing a 10-year old that a sphere counts as “a car.” At that age, the capacity for abstraction isn’t that developed. (I’m not sure, for that matter, whether the capacity for abstraction is that developed in 4th grade teachers.) Even if I could convince him, I’m not sure he would be willing to say that in front of his friends.

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