Fairground Rides

I love this project because it can be tackled at so many different levels. Reception and KS1 can have a go at some basic moving funfair rides. KS2 can tackle rides which have more complex motion. Upper KS2 and KS3 can control the funfair models using a variety of ICT control interfaces and experience computer programming.

Reception and KS1

If we carefully select the tools and materials for this age group we can produce some very effective moving models including rides and side show attractions. Using modeling foam strips (not polystyrene) we can can create all sorts of lightweight shapes and structures. Lengths of foam strip can be cut and shaped with scissors. Holes can be pierced with partly sharpened wooden dowels as drills. Using dowel ‘drills’ or various thickness we can create loose fit holes which allow motion around an axle or a tight fit to hold parts in place firmly. Wooden dowels go very well with the foam strips to create a wide variety of structures and mechanisms. Supporting structures can be made from card tubes, boxes or paper roll tubes.

Here are some models made from foam strip, coloured paper, paper pins, prit stick glue and dowels.


I usually put stripes on the dowel drills so that they are easy to spot when it comes to tidying up!

It also helps stop the children from using them in their models!

Paper pins are great for making quick models but you may wish to use prit stick and an occasional pin to hold parts in place during drying. Then remove all pins before the model is taken home.

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This started out as a simple old fashioned ‘chuggy boat’ based on the Victorian rides at Beamish museum in County Durham. The same ‘carriage’ could be used on a carousel or Ferris wheel made from foam strips.

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More pics coming soon...


Lots more fairground rides at the bottom of this page........

Designing and making fairground rides is a real challenge but it’s very worthwhile.

There are lots of fantastic opportunities for individual work and teamwork.

The topic covers a wide range of DT skills and knowledge.

There’s a lot to consider in terms class management and use of resources!

One way to tackle the project is to employ two basic methods of construction which allows the creation of a basic supporting structure and a moving platform or turntable. All of the students are shown how to make and join the basic elements of the structure and how to assemble the motor unit and then they are allowed to continue with their own design ideas. In this way the less able can all achieve a basic rotating ride such as a carousel and the more able can produce more complex rides with several forms of motion.

There’s even the possibility of computer control of the final product!


Paper roll tubes are brilliant for creating large and exciting structures. The structures can have moving parts too!


The tower is complete so now it’s time to check that the turntable rotates then begin constructing the arms for a spaceship ride.

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A simple carousel whizzing round! You can see the simple paper clip switch and battery.


Design for a tilting ‘wall of death’ ride.

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The wall of death ride open for business and ready to sell tickets!

The ride below is going to be a ‘shaking house of horrors’. The whole structure wobbles to’ and fro’ and is moved by an ingenious ‘crank’ powered by a motor and pulley. The crank is like the pedals on a bike which push and pull and shake the house sideways.

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In this picture the motor drive unit can be seen quite clearly. A pulley on the end of the motor turns the thick white foam wheel which acts as a turntable. Various structures can be added to the turntable eg. two long arms which can have spaceships or seats etc. fitted on the ends.
The whole motor block is raised up on a roll tube structure.
The motor block could be turned sideways to create a ‘Ferris wheel’ ride.

Crazy Dodgem Cars

These crazy dodgem car models are motorised and chase about all over the place crashing into one another. Pupils are challenged to design a new style of dodgem in which the seating position might be completely different from the normal type of dodgem and the body might be almost anything eg. a creature.

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A motor and batteries are used to power the dodgem. A pulley and elastic band transmit the motion of the motor to a single large central wheel. The skirt helps the dodgem stand upright and card features eg. seats, bodywork etc. are added.

There’s a lot more to it though! How can it be switched on and off? How can it be controlled? Can it be made to stay within a ring or arena and battle it out with the rest until there is a winner?

Originally designed as a year6 project I have used it with secondary school pupils and teachers as a team building/problem solving exercise.