What do a paper cup, index card, and a skateboard have in common?

Well… In my class this week, they are tools we’ve used to discover the nature of Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion. Also known as inertia, it states that an object in motion stays in motion, and an objects at rest stays at rest. To test this law and see it real life we conducted two labs.

First off we learned how to get a small cube to drop into a paper cup from on top of an index card. The trick was doing this with out touch the cube. This ended up a lot like the old dinner party trick of pulling a table cloth out from under a stack of dishes.

Learning to accurately and quickly strike the index card with a flick was the big key. By forcing the card to move with a well placed push, the card moved but the cube stayed in place. Voila! Inertia.

Next we moved to a real test of motion by looking at how the surface effects how a skateboard travels. Students developed a plan to look at how a skateboard moves across carpet, tile, and concrete.

This test also gave us an opportunity to study unseen forces like friction and gravity.

Students took careful measurements of different tests on each surface to discover how a smooth surface allows a skateboard to travel further by reducing the amount friction between the wheels and ground.

This may seem like a lot of common sense, but as we learned from pioneers like Newton and Galileo it is important to test out our ideas rather than simply assume we have the correct idea like the ancients Greeks!

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