Students construct rockets from balloons propelled along a guide string. They use this model to learn about Newton's three laws of motion, examining the effect of different forces on the motion of the rocket.
Students make a skydiver and parachute contraption to demonstrate how drag caused by air resistance slows the descent of skydivers as they travel back to Earth. Gravity pulls the skydiver toward the Earth, while the air trapped by the parachute provides an upward resisting force (drag) on the skydiver.
Students learn about stress and strain by designing and building beams using polymer clay. They compete to find the best beam strength to beam weight ratio, and learn about the trade-offs engineers make when designing a structure.
Students observe the relationship between the angle of a catapult (a force measurement) and the flight of a cotton ball. They learn how Newton's second law of motion works by seeing directly that F = ma. When they pull the metal "arm" back further, thus applying a greater force to the cotton ball, it causes the cotton ball to travel faster and farther. Students also learn that objects of greater mass require more force to result in the same distance traveled by a lighter object.
Engineers design methods of removing particulate matter from industrial sources to minimize negative effects of air pollution. In this activity, students will undertake a similar engineering challenge as they design and build a filter to remove pepper from an air stream without blocking more than 50% of the air.
Students learn about the physical force of linear momentum movement in a straight line by investigating collisions. They learn an equation that engineers use to describe momentum. Students also investigate the psychological phenomenon of momentum; they see how the "big mo" of the bandwagon effect contributes to the development of fads and manias, and how modern technology and mass media accelerate and intensify the effect.
In this activity, students will use a tutorial on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website to learn about how surface water is treated to make it safe to drink.
Student teams locate a contaminant spill in a hypothetical site by measuring the pH of soil samples. Then they predict the direction of groundwater flow using mathematical modeling. They also use the engineering design process to come up with alternative treatments for the contaminated water.
Students learn about weight by building a spring scale and observing how it responds to objects with different masses.
Students learn about weight and drag forces by making paper helicopters and measuring how adding more weight affects the time it takes for the helicopters to fall to the ground.
Students gain first-hand experience on how friction affects motion. They build a hovercraft using air from a balloon to levitate a craft made from a compact disc (CD), learning that a bed of air under an object significantly reduces the friction as it slides over a surface.
Students learn that it is incorrect to believe that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. By close observation of falling objects, they see that it is the amount of air resistance, not the weight of an object, which determines how quickly an object falls.
Students learn more about forces by examining the force of gravitational attraction. They observe how objects fall and measure the force of gravitational attraction upon objects.
To learn how friction affects motion, students explore how different textures provide varying amounts of friction to objects moving across them. They build a tool to measure the amount of friction between a note card and various surfaces by measuring the distance that a rubber band stretches. They experiment with a range of materials to determine which provides the least/most friction.
Students capture and examine air particles to gain an appreciation of how much dust, pollen and other particulate matter is present in the air around them. Students place "pollution detectors" at various locations to determine which places have a lot of particles in the air and which places do not have as many. Quantifying and describing these particles is a first step towards engineering methods of removing contaminants from the air.
Using spaghetti and marshmallows, students experiment with different structures to determine which ones are able to handle the greatest amount of load. Their experiments help them to further understand the effects that compression and tension forces have with respect to the strength of structures. Spaghetti cannot hold much tension or compression; therefore, it breaks very easily. Marshmallows handle compression well, but do not hold up to tension.
Students explore the concepts of center of mass and static equilibrium by seeing how non-symmetrical objects balance. Using a paper cut-out shape of a parrot sitting on a wire coat hanger, they learn that their parrot exists in stable equilibrium â it returns to its balancing point after being disturbed. The weight of its tail makes the parrot balance upright. Give the parrot a push, and she knocks off balance, but swings back and forth until coming to rest in balance again.
Building upon their understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion, students learn about the force of friction, specifically with respect to cars. They explore the friction between tires and the road to learn how it affects the movement of cars while driving. In an associated literacy activity, students explore the theme of conflict in literature, and the difference between internal and external conflict, and various types of conflicts. Stories are used to discuss methods of managing and resolving conflict and interpersonal friction.
The concepts of stability and equilibrium are introduced while students learn how these ideas are related to the concept of center of mass. They gain further understanding when they see, first-hand, how equilibrium is closely related to an object's center of mass. In an associated literacy activity, students learn about motion capture technology, the importance of center of gravity in animation and how use the concept of center of gravity in writing an action scene.
Students examine collisions between two skateboards with different masses to learn about conservation of momentum in collisions.