Zipline Racers

animated gif of zipline moving on a line strung from a whiteboard

Zipline Racers are propeller-powered devices built to explore flight and propulsion using simple, easy-to-find materials. Upon completing the build, you then have hours of fun ahead racing across the zipline and tweaking your design to improve performance.


zipline supplies placed on black mat

Supplies Needed

  • Propeller
  • Paper clip
  • Rubber band
  • Hot glue gun
  • Tape
  • Scrap paper
  • Popsicle sticks

Caution: Do not touch the hot end of the hot glue gun and watch where you place your fingers when applying hot glue to popsicle sticks.

How to Make a Zipline Racer

popsicle stick and glue gun and hotglue gun glueing stick

Step 1: Assemble Racer Frame

Grab a popsicle stick and apply hot glue to one half of one side.

popsicle sticks being held together on black mat

Cover the line of hot glue with another popsicle stick.

gluegun adding glue to popsicle sticks that are then stacked

Now apply a line of hot glue to the uncovered end of your first popsicle stick

closeup of hotglue gun adding glue to popsicle stick

Flip over the part of the frame you just constructed so that the center support stick is facing you. Now, add a small dot of hot glue to the bottom sticks next to each end of the center support stick.

popsicle sticks being glued at 90 degree angle

Place one popsicle stick over top of each glue dot at a 90 degree angle. Keep them as straight as possible.

assembled popsicle stick racer frame with hot glue gun

Your frame is complete!

hands bending a paperclip

Step 2: Attach the Propeller

Slightly lift the smaller inside part of a paper clip away from the larger outside part to create an “L” shape.

hotglue being added to popsicle stick and paperclip being placed on popsicle stick

Add some hot glue to one end of your racer’s frame. Then, place the larger side of the paper clip on the hot glue at the bend.

adding hotglue to popsicle stick and paperclip to secure it

Dab a bit of hot glue on top of the paper clip to make sure it’s secure. Now, let it dry for 10 seconds.

securing the propeller to the popsicle stick frame

While waiting for the paperclip to dry, secure a propeller to the end of the popsicle stick at the opposite end of the frame from your paper clip.

wrapping masking tape around popsicle stick and paperclip

Optional: To ensure the paper clip won’t fall off, wrap a finger length piece of tape around the paper clip / hot glue joint.

decorative racer sail colorful spirals on orange paper

Step 3: Design the Racer’s Sail

Select a piece of paper that is big enough to fit between the two vertical popsicle sticks. This piece of paper will serve as the sail for your racer. Decorate it as you like!

masking tape securing the sail to the popsicle stick frame

Flip your paper over so that the side you want to be the front is laying flat on the table. Lay the frame of the racer on top of the paper and line it up to the horizontal edges. Use 2 strips of tape to secure the sail to the racer frame.

attaching a rubberband to the popsicle stick frame

Step 4: Add a Rubber Band

Wrap one end of the rubber band around the metal hook attached to the propeller.

attaching the popsicle sticks together on the frame

Then, stretch the rubber band across the bottom of the frame to the paper clip and wrap the other end of the rubber band around the “U” part of the paper clip.

winding the zipline racer propeller to prepare for race

Step 5: Ready to Race!

Your racer should now be ready to race! When you are finished with the above steps, you will need to create momentum for your racer. To do this, spin the propeller to wind the rubber band.

Building a Zipline

Create a zipline using a thin piece of thread, ribbon, or fishing line spread between 2 tall chairs or other raised surfaces. Bring your racer to the zipline. Once there, clip the racer in place using 2 binder clips and GO!