Design a Bobsled

3rd - 8th

Young scholars apply their knowledge of friction, drag, mass and gravity as they design, build, and test mini-bobsleds.

Resource Details

Life Science
Instructional Design
Inquiry-Based Learning
The Tech Museum of Innovation

Frictional Forces

Students explore friction.  For this middle school science/mathematics lesson, students collect and analyze data as they investigate the role of frictional force on motion.  Students examine their results to see when more force was needed to move the block and note the corresponding surface. 

Mini Catapults

Potential, kinetic, projectile, and motion; four words that are like music to a child's ears. Enthusiastic engineers discuss potential and kinetic energy, projectile motion, force, levers, and torque. Then, they play with several objects to observe how each of these things works, on their own and together. Finally, they apply their practice as they each construct a mini-catapult out of pop sticks, plastic forks, and rubber bands! While the lesson is really more of a set of neat activities, each is valuable in helping children describe the physical world of energy and motion.

Bobsled Challange

Students investigate the effects of materials on the friction between a "bobsled" and the track. They explore the effects of weight on the motion of the bobsled. Students design a bobsled for either fast or slow movement. They discuss the concept of static and kinetic friction.

What a Drag

Middle schoolers learn examples of friction and drag, and suggest ways to reduce the impact of these forces. The equation that governs common frictional forces is introduced, and during a hands-on activity, students experimentally measure a coefficient of friction.

What a Drag!

Students demonstrate how drag affects falling objects. They create a variety of shapes out of paper, conduct an experiment in which they observe how size, shape, and weight affects the speed with which their paper shapes fall, and record the results on a worksheet.

Marbles in Motion

Fourth graders explore how to play marbles while learning the scientific concepts of force, motion, mass, acceleration, friction, and inertia.

Science: What A Drag

Students calculate frictional force after examining the different types of friction and drag. Using a box, basket, and weights, they collect friction data and measure a coefficient of static friction. In teams, they answer questions based on the lesson.

Race the Track! Design Challenge

Students use the design process to investigate physical science.  In this force and motion lesson, design a track to achieve a specified outcome. Students complete additional experiments with speed and distance.  Students recognize the resistance caused by friction.

Gravity: It's GREEEAAATTT!

Students calculate effects of gravitational force on planets, discuss the effects of weightlessness on the human body and describe and demonstrate how objects in a state of free fall are accelerated by gravity at an equal rate.

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

Students hypothesize about the nature of falling objects, design an experimental test to answer the question using everyday objects, analyze data to form conclusions, and infer that mass does not affect the speed of falling objects. This activity culminates with the teacher demonstration (dropping a bowling ball and a golf ball) to show that mass does not affect the speed of falling objects.

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