MUSCATINE, Iowa–Eighth grade students at Susan Clark Junior High School gained some hands-on experience with Newton’s Third Law of Motion with a creative experiment that culminated last week. In small groups, students devised and tested carts that would protect eggs from the impact of hitting a concrete block at high speeds.
Eighth grade science teacher Pamela Joslyn explained that students worked in small groups to develop their carts. To add an engineering component, students could choose several materials to cushion their carts with, but could only use the equivalent of $5 of items, simulating resource constraints businesses face. After a week of working together every other day, students made their first test with a real egg. At the beginning of the next week, students tested their final designs, with many succeeding in designing a successful carrier.
For the students, doing the project had real world connections. When describing how her group designed an effective cart to protect their egg using cotton padding, bubble wrap, and thin straps of felt, Addie Weggen said, “we thought of it as if we were trying to protect a real person.”
Cambria Novak, a student in a separate group, shared Addie’s thinking, explaining, “we added the rubber bands as seatbelts.”
The experiment also helped students visualize Newton’s Third Law by seeing the force of the egg cart’s impact, push it back, and possibly affect the egg if it did not have enough protection. As Addie described it, “the force of the cart is moving and the egg moved back, and that’s how it shows the law.”
Along with exploring physics and engineering, Joslyn’s students gained valuable experience problem solving as a team. Students worked in randomly selected groups, giving them practice working with all kinds of people, just like they will as adults in the workplace. Because her students take classes using a hybrid model, with one day in class followed by a day of independent work at home, students had to collaborate with each other via email to coordinate their project at a distance. While in class, they needed to use their time and skills efficiently to create and test their carts, and to present about it to their classmates at the end of the week. Students built their technology skills as well, making slow motion videos to analyze the impact of the egg cart with the cinderblock and adding multimedia elements to their final presentation.