Project-based learning is hard. Often times, we fall in love with the research and stories of PBL but find it incredibly hard to effectively implement in our student’s life. This is especially true if our students are interested in something less traditionally academic like cars.

You may wonder if it’s even possible to tie a love for cars to “school” work. But from our experience working with high school students at Sora Schools, anything’s possible! So, let’s jump into scaffolding learning and thinking of project ideas for students that are obsessed with cars.

Quick Background

PBL is effective because it follows the “Principle of Directness” which states, in the paraphrased words of author of Ultralearning Scott Young, always try to learn in a situation that mirrors the ultimate use case of the skill. Or, in more human words, do the thing to learn the thing. This is because research shows humans are quite bad at transferring what we learn. That means, if you want to learn a language, speak the language. Or, if you’re really into cars, then learn about designing, building, and even selling cars!

The first step to making your student care about “schoolwork” is showing why it’s relevant to their lives. You don’t like wasting your time and neither does your student. That means, your number one priority is tying every lesson back into how it could help them later. With that knowledge, we’re ready to start!

Identify future careers

If your student is interested in cars, they may want to work in the automotive industry in the future! When people think about careers involving cars, most people think of car mechanics. But there’s more to cars than just fixing them. Your student could be a car designer, using a mixture of advanced math and engineering with art and creativity to create the next big thing! They could learn about selling cars and run a car dealership. They could become a software engineer and work on the underlying technology integrated with cars nowadays. Your student may not even have to work with cars directly—they could write about cars as a journalist and get to see the future of the automotive industry before everyone else!

Of course, if your student is focused on a different career and doesn’t necessarily want to work with cars all day, you can still use the upcoming strategies to create your own project ideas!

Projects for Car Lovers

On average, projects about cars will skew towards math and science in terms of the subject areas covered. But they can still be enriching experiences that may get your student really excited about cars or help them figure out that going into the automotive industry in the future isn’t something they want to do. Either way, your student will be better off for it.

Project Ideas and Points of Inquiry for Car Lovers

  1. How would magnetic brakes work for a car? Could it be viable? Almost every car nowadays uses some form of a brake pad. But how do they work? Could we have alternative types of brakes like a magnetic brake? Your student can conduct research on this topic and determine if magnetic braking for consumer vehicles is possible. The end result can be a presentation, a video, or a paper—whatever suits your students best. This allows them to really exercise their creativity in how they do their research and demonstrate what they’ve learned.
  2. Build an RC car from scratch. In this project, your student will learn about cars at a much more manageable scale. There are plenty of tutorials and guides available online about remote-controlled cars. Through this, your student will learn about propulsion, weight balancing, design, and even a little about the cost structure of vehicles. At the end, they’ll have built something fun and will feel a strong sense of accomplishment.
  3. Design an ad for a car they love. Have your student pick their favorite car and pretend they were in charge of creating an ad for it. The ad could be a flyer, a commercial, or any other medium your student can think of. It would be helpful for them to study up on ads first—why certain ads work and what the components of good ads are. They could even study existing and past ads to model their own creative thinking. Afterwards, they can set out to create the ad. In this project, they’ll learn about creative writing, graphic design or videography, and marketing.
  4. Have your student make a plan to buy and finance a car. Maybe your student has been going on and on about how they want this car or that car in the future. So, put action to words and have them figure out a way to get the car they so want. First, determine the exact car they plan to purchase. Then, have them dive into research on what it takes to buy and afford a certain car. They’ll have to consider payment plans, financing, loans, and basic budgeting. The end result of this project can be a presentation or a report, depending on how they think they can best make the presentation. Who knows, their plan might be incredibly reasonable and you might end up buying a car soon…

Conclusion

When approaching academics using project-based learning, it’s best to give your student choice. As we know from self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation doesn’t occur unless choice is present. So, send this list to your student, support whichever choice they make, and try to fan the fire of their new interest!

If you’re interested in learning more about our online, project-based high school, please check our website and reach out to our team to learn more about how Sora can work for your student!


Indra Sofian

Indra is the Co-Founder of Sora Schools and currently leads marketing and admissions. He is personally passionate about changing the way schools are designed and making them much more meaningful, useful, and fun.