Ever the forward thinker, Walt Disney felt that with the interstate highway system in its infancy, a ride that gave kids the wheel would be a great learning tool for the drivers of tomorrow. The original Autopia, located in Tomorrowland, opened with the Park in 1955 and featured four traffic lanes with no guide rails. The first several riders got a good taste of what it’s really like to drive on the Los Angeles area freeways. (Laugh!)
Of the 40 original ride vehicles, four were ungoverned police mockups that could run down speeders or rescue the stranded. The black-and-whites could reach a maximum speed of 25mph versus the 11mph of the full-throttle Chevy Corvette Stingray-inspired cars. All of them ran on a Gladden “75,” one-cylinder motorcycle engine producing 7.5 horsepower.
In 2000, the Autopia (a combination of “automobile” + “utopia”) track was rebuilt, expanded and and sponsored by Chevron. The old ride vehicles were replaced by a new cast of automotive characters designed after the line of Chevron toy cars. Drivers can now choose Suzy the cute coupe, Dusty the off-road vehicle or Sparky the stylish sports car.
In keeping with Walt’s desire to teach pre-drivers respect for the road, the updated attraction teaches things from the car’s perspective. For example, in the Grand Stand, the cars appear on a big screen to discuss life as they know it, touching on “street smarts, the birds and the bees (‘There comes a time in your life when bees will fly right into your grill!’), and the challenges of waiting for green lights.”
My oldest is 15. He has loved cars, aka “vroom-vrooms,” since he was little bitty. He can legally drive with his learner’s permit now, but he will always love attractions like Disneyland’s Autopia.
Real, road-worthy vehicles require government regulated safety harnesses, or seatbelts. Today, eggsperiment with safety harness systems using the drop-a-taped-egg-and-don’t-let-it-crack trick.
My daughter and I tested the shoebox, paper towel and masking tape version. We folded a paper towel into approximately a 3-inch square pad. We placed it inside a cardboard shoebox and set a fresh, raw egg on top of the pad. We then taped the egg in place using three different methods: 1) one piece of tape horizontally across egg (like a lap seatbelt), 2) one horizontal piece and one diagonal piece of tape (like a shoulder + lap seatbelt), and 3) one horizontal piece and two diagonal pieces of tape (like a child safety seat’s 5-point harness system). For each test, we dropped the shoebox from a height of 3 feet.
Our egg never broke! So either we proved the shoebox-paper towel-masking tape harness is super secure, or we proved absolutely nothing at all.
You may test our method yourself, perhaps experimenting with different kinds of tape or dropping the box from a taller height, or you may create and test your own systems, or you may try one from the following links:
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Physics
SKILL LEVEL: My example was elementary; links are middle grade to college level
Add MAGICAL MOUSE SCHOOLHOUSE to your home library!