Kick Stick


  • 1

    Here are some of the materials you can use

    • AA battery in a battery holder
    • aluminum foil
    • cardboard sheets
    • duct tape
    • 3-volt motor (the kind with gear attached to shaft)
    • paint stirrers (found at paint supply or hardware stores)
    • paper clips
    • Ping-Pong ball
    • popsicle sticks
    • rubber faucet washer (3⁄4-in. [19 mm] or larger)
    • scissors
    • wire (22-gauge works well) 
    • wire strippers 
  • 2

    Prepare ahead of time

    • Have paper and a pencil ready to write down ideas and sketches as you design.
    • Think about asking a grown-up to help you strip the casing off the end of the wire, because this can be tricky to do. 
    • Think about things you know that use a motor to spin blades. (Hand-held fan, toy helicopter)


  • 3

    Think about the challenge

    • How can you use a spinning paddle to get a Ping-Pong ball moving?
    • How do the blades move? Hint: It’s an electrical circuit.
    • How will the switch be operated to make the blades start and stop spinning?
    • TIP: Electricity travels along a circuit. The motor needs a closed circuit in order to work. In a closed circuit, all the parts are connected and the electricity flows uninterrupted from the battery to the motor and back to the battery. In an open circuit, some parts are disconnected, and the gap prevents electricity from flowing—and prevents the motor axle, or rod that moves the paddles, from spinning. 
    • TIP: Inventors work to solve problems and are always looking for ways to improve things or meet people’s needs—including letting people have fun with games! 
  • 4

    Think about and write down a few ideas

    • How will you build a switch that is easy to turn on and off?
    • How long will your arm be?
    • Where will you place the motor on the arm?
    • How big will the paddles need to be in order to hit the ball?
    • TIP: Think about ways to turn your paddles on and off. A switch starts and stops the flow of electricity. When the switch is closed (called a closed circuit), electricity flows to the motor axle so the paddles can spin and spin and spin. 
  • 5

    Look at the materials

    • What materials do you need to make a closed circuit?
    • What materials do you have to make the paddles? Will they be flexible or stiff?
    • How will you attach the paddles to the tiny motor axle?
    • TIP: Stiff blades, such as heavy cardboard, can firmly kick a ball, but so can softer strips. Materials such as tape are soft, but they can deliver a lot of force when they are positioned well and spin quickly.
    • TIP: A flat surface that is secured on top of the tiny motor axle can provide a wide platform for the blades. 
  • 6

    Test the motor

    • Attach one end of the battery holder’s exposed wire to the motor contacts, the little metal tabs that stick out of the bottom of the motor. 
    • Close the circuit by attaching the other end of the wire to the opposite side of the battery holder.
    • TIP: If the motor contacts are bent, straighten them out carefully because they can break off easily.
    • TIP: Connect the motor, battery, and wires to make a complete pathway for electricity to get from the battery to the motor. The motor axle will spin when you close the circuit.
    • TIP: Test a design at different steps along the process. This way you can spot a problem when it happens instead of at the end of the process. 
  • 7

    Design and build the arm

    • Decide what materials you will use to make the arm of your kick stick.
    • Think about how far you want the arm to reach.
    • Build the arm.
  • 8

    Build and attach the closed circuit

    • Plan where your battery and your motor will sit on the arm.
    • Attach the battery and the motor.
    • TIP: You can place your battery and motor anywhere on the arm as long as your wire is long enough to make a closed circuit—one that lets the electricity flow from one terminal to the other.
  • 9

    Build and attach the closed circuit (continued)

    • Measure and cut the wire you need to reach from the battery to the motor. 
    • Tape the wires on the arm.
  • 10

    Build and attach the closed circuit (continued) 

    • Attach the wire to the battery and the motor. Leave a gap in the circuit, or leave one connection open, until you are ready to spin the axle.
  • 11

    Build the on/off switch

    • Decide what materials you will use to make the switch to turn your motor on and off.
    • Assemble the switch.
    • TIP: A switch starts and stops the flow of electricity by opening and closing a gap in the circuit. 
    • TIP: Metal, such as the foil, paper clips, and wire, conducts electricity. 
  • 12

    Test the on/off switch

    • Test the on/off switch to be sure the motor axle spins.
    • TIP: If your switch doesn’t work, check the wires to be sure they didn’t come lose and open a gap in the circuit.
  • 13

    Build the paddle device

    • Decide how you will attach the paddles to the motor.
    • Choose materials and build the paddle device.
    • Attach the paddles.
  • 14

    Kick the ball!

    • Place a Ping-Pong ball on the floor.
    • Turn on the paddles with the switch.
    • Send the ball flying across the floor.
    • TIP: If the material you use for the platform doesn’t fit tightly, try wrapping a piece of tape around the axle and adjust it until the fit is snug. 
    • TIP: If the switch doesn’t always start and stop the flow of electricity, try making the point of contact larger by adding a clip or foil to the end of your wires. The larger contacts will make it easier to close the circuit.
  • 15

    Did you know?

    • Electric Skateboards
      Since the 1960s, people have been exploring ways to make a motorized skateboard that will become a popular way of getting around. The early inventions were loud, expensive, and not good for the environment. In fact, the state of California banned gas-powered skateboards completely in 1977!

      Today, motorized skateboards are making a comeback. New designs are being used as transportation—for businesspeople, students, and grandparents! Even in California there is a renewed push to bring back the motorized skateboard. In 2014, a bill was introduced to the California State Legislature to allow electric skateboards to be used on bike lanes and paths. Soon, people might have another ecofriendly, cost-effective way of getting around town! 
  • 16

    Try this next!

    • Use your kick stick to play golf. Try to control the direction the Ping-Pong ball moves and lead it into a cup. 
    • Play stick-and-ball games. Create stick-and-ball games using your kick stick and challenge a friend to a game.