The Voltaic Propulsion Lab

The Voltaic Propulsion Lab

8-10 yrs old

11-13 yrs old




Students visit a futuristic research facility. They work together to collect raw materials, then use the giant machines to build an electric car.

avatar Submitted By: Daniel Galbraith

July 2, 2020

Download Assets


  • Collaboration
  • Communication

Supporting Files

Lesson Resources

In order to run this scenario with your class, download the lesson resources here and follow the 'Getting Started' guide!

Learning Objectives

  • Work together in small groups to solve clues, collect and mine resources from their environment, and create parts for building an electric car.
  • Gain an understanding of the parts of an electric car, and an appreciation of the raw materials used in their production.
  • Learn to collaborate with the entire class to achieve a group goal.

Guiding Ideas

Electric cars form a small but significant percentage of vehicles currently on the road in the developed world. As battery efficiencies increase and fuel prices rise, the number of electric cars in use is set to rise rapidly over the coming decades. By introducing students to a modern electric car in a collaborative, interactive way, this scenario aims to excite them about the way electric cars are built, and possibly spur interest in learning more about this rapidly-changing industry.

In this lesson, students will visit the fictional Institute for Voltaic Propulsion; a fantastical research facility full of researchers and enormous machines. They will be tasked with mining and collecting raw materials used to build major parts of an electric car, then correctly inserting them into machines that will combine them into the finished components. In this way, the Lab acts like an abstracted version of an automobile factory.

At each stage students are able to observe the completed parts of the vehicle and speak to NPCs that guide them in finding resources, as well as providing general trivia.

Students will be required to work together in small groups to accomplish this collaborative task. Some materials can simply be retrieved from storerooms, whilst others must be mined, refined and constructed using tools and facilities within the Lab, and the surrounding Minecraft environment. Some of these tasks involve: using pickaxes to mine minerals; furnaces to smelt metal, bake terracotta, and convert sand into glass; crafting tables to construct tools and metal components; and even using enchanted, magical pickaxes to retrieve and extract solid blocks of ice from an iceberg.

To complete the car, every part must be completed first. Students have opportunities to share their knowledge and collected resources, and work together to help each other. The reveal of the completed car is dramatic, and should make for a satisfying conclusion to the lesson.

This scenario has been lovingly built by the University of Queensland, Australia, with the generous support of Mining Education Australia, and the Minerals Council of Australia. Determining strategies for managing resource scarcity and sustainability are key issues over the coming years and decades, and this perspective is an important one to introduce to students who might someday consider a career in engineering. Regardless, by teaching students about the raw materials that go into creating a single car, the researchers hope to encourage students to consider the resources that go into other everyday objects they may otherwise be taken for granted.

Student Activities


-Information to be presented to students-

The Institute for Voltaic Propulsion is an incredible, state-of-the-art facility that’s responsible for the latest research into electric cars in the Minecraft world. Housed inside an enormous stone building, the Institute runs an automated production system that builds electric cars piece by piece.

Students take on the roles of visiting engineers, tasked with operating the Lab’s machines and helping the NPC researchers complete their latest car.

The production line is fed by six Material Blenders; complex machines that convert raw materials into useful parts. Students must separate into teams, then work out how to synthesise, extract, mine, and smelt the raw materials that their Material Blender requires.

They’ll be guided along the way by helpful NPCs, and are free to use any of the Lab’s facilities. These include:

  • A Element Storage Room, where rare earth metals are kept.
  • A Smelting Zone, with rows of furnaces and fuel.
  • The Crafting Zone, with access to crafting tables and storage space.
  • The Storerooms, where tools, weapons, and redstone components can be found.
  • Enchantment Facilities, for building specialist tools.
  • A high-tech Teleporter to a Lab-owned mine full of minerals.
  • The elevated Build Floor, where students can inspect the car as each part comes together.

At each stage the students acquire their component, place it in the right slot in the Material Blender, then pull the lever. If they’ve got it right, the machine will light up. Correctly insert all five materials and then beacons on one of the six Fabricators around the Build Floor will light up. Head on over, pull the big lever on top, and the Material Blender will take their materials and create the finished part in a flash of light!

Once every Fabricator has been activated and all six parts of the car have been created, the students are ready to complete the car. Climb to the top of the central pedestal, pull the final lever, then step back and watch the show!

In the Classroom

In this lesson, students will visit the Minecraft factory and use its machines to accomplish a group goal. The entire class, including the teacher, should visit the same Minecraft world and work together. The lesson can be preceded by an introduction to electric vehicles, but the Minecraft activity should take up the bulk of the lesson time. As the world can be saved and re-entered at any time, educators could choose to spread the time spent in the Minecraft scenario out over smaller sessions.


Performance Expectations

Student Performance

  • Students were able to work in smaller groups to accomplish larger team goals.
  • Students were able to work out what materials they needed to collect as a group.
    • They spoke to the NPCs and looked around the environment for clues.
    • They discussed amongst themselves how best to acquire each material.
    • They used the tools, equipment, and facilities of 'The Lab' effectively.
  • Students collected all the relevant materials, then fabricated their part of the car.
  • Each of the six groups completed their parts, and the entire car was completed.

Learning Outcome Questions

  • Can you name some of the materials used to make your part of the car?
  • If you opened up the bonnet of a real electric car, could you find your part?
  • Can you name all of the parts of the electric car?

Optional Assessment

Each student writes a short reflection on how effectively their ‘team of engineers’ worked together to build their part of the electric car.

  1. Reflect on the raw materials they needed to gather. Were their materials easy to find? Were there any complex steps they needed to take to get everything they needed?
  2. Reflect on how they allocated their human resources during the scenario; was getting the materials efficient, and were the right number of people doing each task?
  3. Which resources do they think would be the most difficult to get in real life? Can they see any problems arising if another group had to start building another car in the same world? Can any connections be drawn between how they valued their ingame resources, and how we value resources in the real world?



  • Collaboration
  • Communication

Supporting Files

Lesson Resources

In order to run this scenario with your class, download the lesson resources here and follow the 'Getting Started' guide!