Built to take measured steps with swinging or rocking legs, ramp walkers are physics toys that use gravity to slowly waddle their way down ramps. Ramp walker toys have been around since the late 1800s, first made from cast iron, then wood, and then mass-produced in plastic during the 1950s and 60s. Today, makers are also 3D-printing them with custom designs and themes. From 3ders.org:
“Just like a windup toy uses potential energy stored in a spring, the walking toy uses potential energy as it descends downhill,” explained Pranav Bhounsule, assistant profess of mechanical engineering… “However, unlike a windup toy that has an intricate mechanism, the walking toy relies on its mass distribution, inertia, and leg geometry to amble downhill.”
In the video above, retired physics teacher Bruce Yeany creates ramp walkers with cardboard, making them both an excellent DIY craft and a physics demonstration.
Watch the video above to learn how to make your own with cardboard, scissors, and your choice of art materials. Hot glue is optional. Yeany also shares wooden ramp walkers from his collection.
While much easier than ones made from wood, [cardboard ramp walkers] are also less durable and may be a bit more temperamental requiring adjustments are cardboard integrity changes. Ramp walking toys have actually been around for quite a while, the first ones were metal elephants produced back in the 1800s. In the 1930s and 40s, the popular material was plastic made that was made into Disney and other popular characters. Recently there has been a surge in wooden ramp walking toys. The wooden toys are very durable but require woodworking tools for making them.
Read more about the history and pop culture popularity of ramp walkers in Antique Week.
Watch more homemade physics with Bruce Yeany:
• A homemade string shooter & slow moving waves in rope
• Make Lissajous patterns with DIY sand pendulums or light
• Homemade marble track demonstrations
• How to make homemade slide whistles
Then watch more toy videos and more cardboard project videos on TKSST, including:
• How to make a cotton ball launcher
• Chaotic Pendulum, a DIY physics demonstration
• How to make a coin sorting machine with cardboard
This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.
Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.