High Speed Safety

Four SPS interns went to Ms. Coffman’s Third Grade Class at Tuckahoe Elementary School on Tuesday, June 19, 2007, for a physics demonstration. Our main topic was speed vs. height using skateboards, a homemade ramp, and boxes. We provided the materials, including Hot Wheels Radar Guns!

The kids measured the maximum speed on the skateboard as it traveled down the ramp at an increasing height. We collected data for a height up to four boxes and then plotted our results. The kids caught on really fast and tried to convince us to let them ride down the ramp on the skateboard to see how fast they could go!

Then, we tied in a safety demo about speed, seatbelts, and bodily damage. The kids made their own Playdoh dolls and took turns sitting them on the skateboard in one of three seats. The first seat had a lap belt and shoulder strap, the middle seat had only a lap belt, and the last one had nothing. The damage assessment was based on tears, loss of limbs, and flying from the car. This was a really big hit with the kids as they determined who suffered the most damage.

After all of the data was plotted, we compared graphs, discussed potential energy vs. kinetic energy, and ways to improve the experiments. The students were very excited about the whole concept and did not seem to realize that they were learning a valuable safety lesson along the way!

For the grand finale, we attempted to launch a couple of Diet Coke and Mentos rockets on skates. One rocket was weighted down with a water bottle, and the kids were encouraged to predict the outcome. The rockets did not travel as far or as smoothly as we would have liked, but the spewing soda was impressive to the students.

Justin and Ryan’s hard work paid off that morning. Besides being informative and exciting, the demo was also a test run for a potential SPS SOCKS experiment. It was a definite success at showing students how to practice proper safety techniques when riding in the car at Hot Wheels Speed!

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