Build a Model Zip Line

Question to Explore

How can we use recycled materials to design and construct a model zip line?

Material Options

  • string or yarn
  • legos
  • cardboard
  • binder clips
  • paper clips
  • plastic cup
  • popsicle sticks
  • pipe cleaners
  • miniature figurine or weight to carry
  • scissors
  • tape


  1. Research some examples of zip lines and brainstorm what makes an effective zip line
  2. Draw a model of what your zip line will look like
  3. Gather your materials.  What will you use for your pulley? for your chord? to harness your figurine in?
  4. Questions to consider: What will you attach your zip line to? (the beginning and the end) High steep will your slope be? Which material will slide the easiest on your chord or string? (which materials have the least amount of friction?)
  5. Build your zip line
  6. Test it out using your figurine or weight.
  7. Does the figure make the whole trip? Is the design too heavy or is there too much friction to travel successfully travel along the line?
  8. Experiment with different size slopes and lengths.  Try adding more weight to the rider and see if it still works.


  • pulley: a wheel with a grooved rim around which a cord passes. It acts to change the direction of a force applied to the cord and is chiefly used to raise heavy weights.
  • friction: the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another.
  • gravity: the force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass.
  • slope: a surface of which one end or side is at a higher level than another
  • harness: straps to safely attach a rider to a zip line

Sample Zip Lines:


Photo References: