Design Projects – Physics


*Toothpick Towers

Purpose: To design and build the most efficient free standing structure (tower) to fit over an opening in a testing platform applying concepts of equilibrium/stability, forces (tension and compression), center of gravity, and Newton's Third Law of Motion.. “Efficiency” will be measured as a ratio between the mass of the load supported and the tower's mass.

* Provide a detailed drawing OR photograph of your tower.
* The structure should be constructed entirely out of flat toothpicks and glue.
* The minimum dimensions of the tower must be the following: Height = 25 cm, Base Span = 15 cm X 15 cm
* The tower must support a wooden test block that is 5 cm by 5 cm at the top of the tower.

Samples of Student Work - intro or follow-up, use Freebody program on classroom computers to investigate force vectors.

*Submarine Project

Purpose: To construct a submarine with neutral buoyancy (it neither sinks, nor floats), applying Newton’s laws, design a submarine body for speed, and modify your design for performance.

* Everyone will use a Tamiya Submarine Motor for propulsion.
* No other additions to the propulsion system are allowed.
* You may use whatever materials you wish for the body, BUT the YWCA will not allow your sub in the pool if you have parts that may fall off. Do not use materials (like cardboard) that will disintegrate in the pool, or if you use something like sand, make sure it is well sealed and won’t leak.
* Remember buoyancy depends on the density of the water in the pool which may be different than that of the water in your bathtub. Make sure you have a way to may on the spot adjustments to achieve neutral buoyancy.

*Edible Race Cars

Purpose: To design, construct, and race cars to learn about the concepts of aerodynamics, friction, and to maximize either their displacement, Δx, or average velocity, vave.

* All components of the race car must be materials that are edible for humans, with the exception of four standard-length wooden toothpicks or 2 bamboo shish kabob skewers;
* All cars must have four separate wheels;
* Race cars must move a minimum of 1 m in a forward direction from the bottom of the launch ramp;
* The race car should be no larger than 30 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm.

Samples of Student Work - Tested with Laser Pointer and Vernier Photogate, follow-up activity "Graph Matching", see Sensors

*Grand Prix Racers

Purpose: To build a vehicle that can be propelled using the mechanical energy stored inside an inflated balloon, rubber band, mousetrap etc. and measure and calculate various kinematic quantities.

* You may use only mechanical forms of stored energy to propel your car (i.e. no electrical or fuel-powered motors, no CO2 canisters, etc.). If in doubt about whether your propulsion method is acceptable – ask!
* Your stored energy must be part of your vehicle – in other words not external sling shots, etc.
* Two photogates will be set up 0.5 m apart.
* The photogates can be at any height (up to the top of a ring stand).
* Your car will be released from rest at the first photogate and the time will be measure to the second photogate.
* Something on your car must pass through the photogates to trigger them.
* Your car must be able to go straight for the first 0.5 m.
* Your total displacement will be measured (in a straight line using a metric measuring tape) from where the car starts to where it stops.
* Your total time will be measured with a stop watch from when the car starts to when it stops.
* You will be allowed class time to test your cars and then more time to take them home and improve them for race day.

*Bungee Egg Drop

Purpose: To construct a bungee cord that will let an egg fall within 5% of the total height of the drop to the ground without cracking the egg. You will need to determine a mathematical model for force (F) vs amount stretched (Δx) and use this model to calculate the maximum stretch (Δxmax) and length (L) of the bungee cord given the height (h - about 8.7m) of the drop. You will also use this model to calculate the maximum force (Fmax) the egg will experience during the drop to make sure that the stopping force will not crack the egg.

*"Phun" Projectile Motion Simulation

Purpose: Build an animation of a ball being launched from the left and being caught on the right by some kind of receptacle (i.e. a person’s hand or a box).

*Explore the tools and learn to use the "Phun" program.
*Use the “pen tool” in the program, to put a pen in the middle of the ball that will trace its path when launched.
*You must build your phunlet from scratch. Do not use any existing scenes or phunlets!

Sample of Student Work (viewing requires Windows Media Player or VideoLan for Mac OS)

*Roller Coasters

Purpose: To design a roller coaster that provides thrills (g-forces & vertical loops), no spills (marble makes it the whole length of the coaster without falling out), eye-appeal, and a maximum ride time.

* A glass marble or steel ball will “ride” your roller coaster. You must provide this object for testing day.
* The marble/ball will be released from rest at the top of the first hill.
* The base of the coaster may not exceed 75 cm X 75 cm.
* All parts of the coaster (including decorations) must fit within a 75 cm X 75 cm X 100 cm box.
* The starting position at the top of the first hill should be clearly marked. The steel ball or glass marble must end in a designated area or container.
* No motors or propulsion systems other than gravity!

Samples of Student Work