Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Pit Crew

Force and Motion is one of my favorite 5th grade topics.  Some of the goals in the current NC Standard Course of Study will be elimintated as we move to the Essential Standards.  Fortunately, Essential Standard 5.P.1 continues to align with my newest simulation.  The Essential Standards are as follows:
5.P.1.1 Explain how factors such as gravity, friction, and change in mass affect the motion of objects.
5.P.1.2 Infer the motion of objects in terms of how far they travel in a certain amount of time and the direction in which they travel.
5.P.1.3 Illustrate the motion of an object using a graph to show a change in position over a period of time.
5.P.1.4 Predict the effect of a given force or a change in mass on the motion of an object.
My newest simulation isn't available for public viewing yet.  Too much fine tuning is left to be done.  I will give you a snippet as a tease, however.  Race car drivers and their pit crew members are scientists. You may think I'm stretching it a bit to say that, but I believe it is true.  They each specialize in an area of expertise whether that is changing tires, checking brakes, or operating a vehicle at high speeds.  Complex calculations and an understanding of force and motion are critical components to ensuring the safety of the driver and optimum operation of the vehicle. 

In this simulation, students must develop an understanding of the effect various materials will have on their toy car.  As we began our simulation, small groups of students have already begun their supply lists.  Materials such as cardboard, wax paper, aluminum foil, carpet, sandpaper, and cooking oil are being requested as variables to study.  The challenge posed is to find out how to control friction to get a desired result.  Too much friction and the car will not go fast enough or far enough.  Too little friction and the car may flip, crash, or drive off course. 

We will be using toy cars of varying masses and taking advantage of the force of gravity as we release cars on an inclined plane at a consistent slope.  Speed could be measured with stopwatches and distance could be measured with meter sticks or measuring tapes.  My students are fortunate to have access to laptops and high-tech scientific probeware that will send a signal to collect measurement data of speed and distance while generating a graph in real time.  This equipment comes from Vernier Technology and is called the "Go Motion" sensor.

Ultimately, it is my hope that the students will come away from this experience with a thorough understanding of the forces at work, as well as the impact these forces have on our day to day lives.  There are few jobs today that do not rely on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) in some way, shape or form.  My students had no problem agreeing with my statement that the "Pit Crew" are scientists.  My overaching goals are for students to realize that everyone is a scientist, STEM related classes are necessary and exciting.

If you have ideas for improving this simulation, I would love to hear them.  If you've done something similar, I'd love to hear about it.  If you have a question, I'd be happy to respond.  Just leave me a note in the comment section below.  Thanks for stopping by!

No comments:

Post a Comment