Forces and Motion Exploration


Science Content & Background Knowledge:

Forces Around Us:

What is Force? A push or a pull upon an object.
*Objects can be moved by pushing or pulling.

Types of Forces: (There are many more not listed)
1-Friction: A force that happens when two
objects rub together.
2-Gravity: A force that pulls objects toward the
3-Drag: A force that occurs when things move
through air and water (drag slows them down).
4-Magnetism: A force that either pulls objects
towards each other or pushes them apart.

How are force and gravity related?
Here is one way to think about it...
You and your friend are ice skating. You decided you want to experiment with force. You find that it is a lot easier to push your friend horizontally across the ice than to pick them up vertically. This is because the only force you are fighting is the friction of the blades against the ice which is a lot less then fighting the gravitational force that is pushing on your friend when you try to pick them up off the ice.

What is Motion? The process of changing place or
position of an object.

How are Force and Motion Related?
*It takes a force to move things.
*It takes more force (a bigger push) to move
heavier things.
*It takes less force (a smaller push) to move
lighter things.
*When forces are balanced the object will remain at rest.
*When forces are unbalanced the object will remain in motion.

Related Concepts and Vocabulary:

What is Inertia? The tendency of an object to resist changes in its state of motion.

Newton’s Three Laws of Motion: These three Laws describe how any object in the universe behaves when acted on by a force.

*Newton’s 1st Law of Motion: states that a moving object will continue moving in a straight line at a constant speed, and a
stationary object will remain at rest, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
The idea of how rest or motion will stay the same is called inertia. Newton’s 1st Law is also known the Law of Inertia.
Example: If no forces are acting on a rolling ball on a level surface, it will roll forever.

*Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion: Says that an object accelerates because a force acts on it. To accelerate means to change speed or direction or both.
The stronger the force the more the object accelerates.

*Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion: Says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

What is Potential Energy? The stored energy an object has because of its position.

What is Kinetic Energy? The energy possessed by an object because of its motion
*Potential energy can change to kinetic energy and vice verse.

What is Momentum? The quantity of motion that an object has.
*If an object is in motion ("on the move") then it has momentum.
*The amount of momentum which an object has is dependent upon two variables: how much stuff is moving and how fast the
stuff is moving. In other words, momentum depends upon the variables mass and speed.

What is Speed? Speed refers to "how fast an object is moving." A fast-moving object has a high speed while a slow-moving object has a low speed. An object with no movement at all has a zero speed.

What is Mass? The mass of an object refers to the amount of matter that is contained by the object. Mass is related to "how much stuff is there.” The mass of an object will be the same no matter where in the universe that object is located. Mass is never altered by location, the pull of gravity, speed, or even the existence of other forces.

Forces and Motion Activities:

Regina Vermina Red Roadster Car Activity
This activity involves building a car out of various materials and then testing the time it travels, the distance it travels, and finally the speed it travels to determine if it would be a good addition to the Regina Vermina Rolling Vehicles Company. This activity is focused on the scientific concepts of force and motion.

Construction Details:
Various materials can be used in the construction of the cars. This is a suggested list only:
  • Shoe box
  • (2) dowel rods
  • (4) compact discs
  • (8) cardboard washers with a hole punched in the middle- 2cm in diameter
  • Hole punch
  • (8) pieces of clear tubing
  • (5) ice cream craft spoons
  • Hot glue gun
  • (5) gummy worms
  • ( 4) pieces of pipe cleaner
  • Plywood ramp
  • Meter stick

Steps of Construction:
Students can be put into groups of two or three to construct their car. The following steps describe one way a car can be constructed. Students should be given the choice of materials they use (could be brought from home) and how they use them.

  1. When constructing the car, we first removed the cardboard flaps that were attached to the lid of the shoe box. We then used the hot glue gun to glue together the corners of the box which had come apart after we had cut off the flaps inside.
  2. It was from these pieces of extra cardboard that we cut out our eight cardboard washers. We used a quarter as a pattern for the washers. We wanted to use these washer pieces to help stabilize the compact disc wheels. The hole in the wheels was too large for the dowel rod we were using as an axle. We punched a hole with a hole punch into the center of the cardboard washer in order to make the correct hole size for the dowel rod. The dowel rod fit tightly into this hole. We then made these holes slightly bigger by putting the rod into the cardboard hole and pushing it back and forth until it would slide easily in and out. The dowel rod axle needed to be able to rotate inside the hole easily but not vibrate back and forth. We used the hot glue gun to glue the washers to both sides of the compact discs making sure to line up the hole in the washers with the hole in the compact disc.
  3. After the cardboard washers were attached to the compact discs, we then placed the two dowel rod axles through four triangular cardboard pieces that were also hot glued to the bottom of the car body, two on each side. We measured an equal distance from the ends of the shoe box on each side. This is where we glued the triangular pieces. We did this so that the dowel rods would be placed equally at each end of the box. We placed one piece of clear plastic into the dowel, then the compact disc, then another piece of clear plastic to keep the compact disc wheel from coming off. The clear pieces of tubing acted to stabilize the compact disc wheels so that they would not wobble as well as reduce the friction produced by the dowel spinning inside the cardboard washer.
  4. After we had the car assembled on the outside we assembled the seats for the worms to sit in. We cut five wooden ice cream spoons in half across the width. We then used hot glue to put the two pieces together forming a right angle. This created a seat for each of the worms. We glued the seats to the inside of the car. After putting the worms into their seats, we buckled them safely in using pipe cleaner pieces, wrapping the pipe cleaner around the craft stick across their laps.

The following photographs were taken of our car, the Red Roadster:




Description of Test Procedure:
We tested the Red Roadster in three different areas:
  • Distance traveled
  • Time traveled
  • Speed traveled
In order to test these areas, we used a plywood ramp placed at three different heights, which we measured, by using a meter stick. The car was placed on the ramp and gravity provided the source of energy to make our car go down the ramp. The potential energy of the car was converted to movement for the car. We performed three trial runs at the three different heights in order to get a good average distance and time for the car. Once we had measured the distance and the time traveled we then calculated the speed of the car:
  • Speed = Distance
When positioning the ramp, we placed the top surface edge of the ramp at the determined heights- 50cm, 70cm, 85cm. For each trial the ramp had to be kept level and straight in order to get a true measurement.
When we measured distance, we measured accurately by placing the meter stick on the ramp and the floor when we were measuring the distance the car traveled. If the car bumped into a wall or went sideways, we were consistent in measuring to the wall and then to the point where the car stopped. We also started measuring from the back of the plywood board to the back of the back wheel of the car for each trial.
When we measured time, we started the timer when we let the car go and stopped when the car stopped moving. We tried to be very consistent with these readings.
After measuring the distance and time traveled we were able to calculate the speed traveled. We then created three data charts to show our results. One for Distance Traveled, Time Traveled, and Speed Traveled. Students can go to "charts" under Tools in Microsoft Word to create these charts. All distances should be measured in centimeters. All times should be measured in seconds. Teachers should model for students how their charts need to be set up. On all charts, the height of the ramp is the independent variable and the distance and time traveled are the dependent variables.
For the last chart we calculated the average speed of the car at each height of the ramp based on:
Average distance traveled
Average time traveled
The chart for the speed of the Red Roadster is measured in cm/sec.
The following photographs were taken as we measured the distance and time traveled by the Red Roadster:

DSC00104.JPG DSC00106.JPG

After creating our charts, we then used the information on them to create a line graph for each measurement. To create the line graphs we used two different variables:
    • Independent Variable = Height of Ramp (This is the variable I control)
    • Dependent Variable = Distance/Time/Speed (The variable I cannot control. The dependent variable depends on the independent variable)
The independent variable is always plotted on the "X" axis or the horizontal axis and the dependent variable is always plotted on the "Y" axis or the vertical axis.
Students can use this website to help them produce the graphs:

Once the students have tabulated and graphed all the information regarding their cars, they can then explain why their car should be bought by Regina Vermina and included in her Rolling Car Company.
The following North Carolina Standard Course of Study goals and objectives are met through this activity:
Competency Goal 4: The learner will conduct investigations and use appropriate technologies to build an understanding of forces and motion in technological designs

4.01 Determine the motion of an object by following and measuring its position over time.
4.02 Evaluate how pushing or pulling forces can change the position and motion of an object.
4.03 Explain how energy is needed to make machines move.
  • Moving air.
  • Gravity.
4.04 Determine that an unbalanced force is needed to move an object or change its direction.
4.05 Determine factors that affect motion including:
  • Force
  • Friction.
  • Inertia.
  • Momentum
4.06 Build and use a model to solve a mechanical design problem.
  • Devise a test for the model.
  • Evaluate the results of test.

Forces and Motion Activity: Alka-Seltzer Rockets

alkaseltzer_rockets.jpg alkaseltzer_rockets2.jpg

Purpose: To demonstrate to students that gas release is a source of propulsion and is used as a force to move the “rocket”. The gas used in this demonstration is carbon dioxide. The force is produced by the gas bubbles from the Alka-Seltzer tablet when it is placed in water inside the film canister “rocket”

Target Concepts: Many of the concepts taught in this demonstration are in the subject areas of chemistry, physics, and biology which are subjects taught beyond the scope of the elementary school curriculum. However, some more basic concepts that can be discussed through this demonstration are:
· Force- A push or pull on an object. The carbon dioxide gas from the Alka-Seltzer tablets pushes on the cap or base canister to push it apart.
· Inertia- The tendency of an object to keep doing what it is doing unless acted on by an outside source. The outside source is the carbon dioxide gas that is released from the Alka-Seltzer tablets.
· Momentum- Inertia in motion. The speed and mass of an object determine its momentum. The speed that the film canister rocket travels as well as the amount of water it contains determines the rocket’s momentum.
· Friction- The resistance of motion of surfaces that touch. Friction is created in where the cap of the film canister fits to the canister itself. The canister resists movement until the gas produced forces the lid off.

All of the concepts listed above are part of the North Carolina fifth grade science curriculum:
· Competency Goal 4:The learner will conduct investigations and use appropriate technologies to build an understanding of forces and motion in technological designs.
Objective 4.05: Determine factors that affect motion including:
· Force
· Friction
· Inertia
· Momentum

Materials Needed:
· Alka-Seltzer tablets or similar effervescent tablet such as Aspro Clear
· 35mm film canisters- the white or clear type with the “plug in” rather than ”push over” lids work the best. Fuji film is one brand of this type canister. Usually the photo department at any drugstore will let you have these for free. They usually collect them for recycling.
· Water- hot or cold

· Place an Alka-Seltzer tablet or a piece of one, depending on the size, into the well inside the lid of the film canister. It should jam in there nicely.
· Place approximately 5mm of water into the film canister.
· In a quick motion, place the lid on the film canister and invert it placing the lid on a table or bench or better yet on a sidewalk or driveway outside.
·Step back and wait for the “rocket” to go off!

Safety Precautions:
· The rocket does not explode, but it does project up into the air. There is a very small chance that the canister could explode if the lid does not release, but this is very unlikely given the pressures involved. As a precaution, students should always wear eye goggles.
· The film canister gets projected very quickly and can easily damage/break fluorescent light bulbs and/or their covers. Care should be taken to ensure that the projectile film canister cannot impact with person or property to cause damage. This is a good activity to conduct outside if possible.

Questions (to be asked before, during, and after the demonstration:
1. Before: Alka-Seltzer is a medicine that people take for fast relief for an upset stomach or heartburn with headache or body aches. Has anyone here ever taken Alka-Seltzer or do you know someone who has taken Alka-Seltzer before? According to the box, you need to be twelve years or older to take this medicine.
2. Before: What do you think happens when you take Alka-Seltzer? How do you think it works so fast? Alka-Seltzer contains two antacids-citric acid and sodium bicarbonate- which act to quickly neutralize acid indigestion.
3. Before: It says on the Alka-Seltzer box that the tablets are effervescent. Can anyone tell me what that means? Effervescent means to give off gas bubbles. So when we put the tablets into water they give off gas bubbles.
4. During: Which do you think is a better idea?
· Putting the Alka-Seltzer tablet into the lid of the cap, filling the canister and then putting on the lid?
· Dropping the Alka-Seltzer into the bottom of the canister, covering it with water, then putting on the lid?
Why do you think one way is better than the other?
By putting the Alka-Seltzer into the lid of the canister you have more time to put the lid on before the bubbles start. Otherwise you may not be able to get the lid on because the force of the gas bubbles will not let the lid go on.
5. During: Can someone explain in your own words why you think the rocket is being propelled into the air? The carbon dioxide gas bubbles being produced are exerting a force on the canister making it move. (See definition of force on page one)
6. During: What do you think would happen if we used hot water instead of cold water? The rocket will propel into the air faster because of the heat and the gas combined.
7. During: What is the function of the Alka-Seltzer in this demonstration and tell me why you think this? It acts as the fuel for the rocket because it makes the rocket move. Talk about inertia and the fact that the rocket is in an inert state before we add the fuel to it.
8. After: How does changing the volume of water effect the time the rocket takes to take off and the height it travels? Adding more water decreases the time before take-off because the bubbles have less space and force that rocket off more quickly.
9. After: How does changing the amount of tablet effect the time the rocket takes to take off and the height it travels? Adding more tablet decreases the time before take-off because there are more gas bubbles produced. So the rocket takes off quicker.
10. After: How do you think the rocket could be designed to travel higher? By using nose cone size and shapes.
11. After: Our rocket did not travel very straight. How do you think it could be designed so that it would travel straighter? By adding fins to the rocket, paying attention to the fin size, shape, and placement.
12. After: What could we do to determine the amount of water and the amount of tablet to use for the fastest/highest rocket launch? We do different trails with different amounts of water and tablet and put our findings in the form of a graph where the two amounts would be the independent variables and the height and time were the dependent variables.

Web Sites:

Internet Resources Relating to Forces and Motion:

*Resource Number One:
This website has easy reading material about Newton’s three laws of motion.

*Resource Number Two:
This website has good information and some fun experiments to demonstrate Inertia.

*Resource Number Three:
This is a kid friendly website about Force.

*Resource Number Four:
This is website is called, the information here was created especially to teach children about Motion. Included in the website, is a webpage called “Always Moving” that can be used by teachers and students to learn about Motion and other relating topics such as, Forces, Laws of Motion, Friction, Gravity, Energy of Motion, etc.

*Resource Number Five:
This is a kid friendly website about potential and kinetic energy.

*Resource Number Six:
This is a webpage to use as a tool to help children understand energy. It has some useful information about kinetic and potential energy. From this site teachers can find energy related classroom activities, energy facts, energy history, etc.

*Resource Number Seven:
This webpage is a kid friendly webpage relating to friction. There is a fun experiment to help students understand the concept of friction.

*Resource Number Eight:
This website is for you, the teacher. This website has lots of hands-on activities that can be used in the classroom to help children understand the concepts relating to forces and motion. It has beginner, intermediate, and advanced activities. Be sure to check out this website!

*Resource Number Nine:
After coming to the discovery school (Grades K-5) homepage, you will see a list of subject links. Click on the link that reads, “Physical Science.” Here you will be able to find lesson plans and activities on forces and motion, and other physical science topics.

*Resource Number Ten:
This is a lesson plan that allows children discover motion through creating a catapult and discovering which catapult can get their marshmallows to go the farthest. Looking at this lesson plan, we believe the children would learn a lot about motion and have fun learning it. This would be a fifth or sixth grade lesson plan. This is a good activity to use in your classroom you upper elementary teachers!


Science Biography: Sir Isaac Newton

(This Biography was originally a PowerPoint presentation, but we could not get it posted to wikispace. If you are able to use the Biography in your classroom, cut and paste the information into a kid friendly-fun document.)

*Sir Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, 1642, in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire.

*Isaac Newton’s father was also named Isaac Newton. He was an illiterate yeoman farmer. His mother’s name was Hannah Ayscough. Shortly after Newton’s birth, his father passed away leaving his mother widowed.

*Hannah Newton remarried a gentleman named Barnabas Smith, rector of North Witham (about a mile and a half from Woolsthorpe). She moved to North Witham, leaving young Isaac (three years old) in Woolsthorpe, under the care of Hannah's mother, Margery.

*Growing up he spent a great deal of time alone. He liked to read, build toys, and keep a journal.

*In 1654, Newton enrolled at King's School, at Grantham (about 7 miles from Woolsthorpe). He lived with Mr. Clark, the town apothecary, who provided the first stimulus to his interest in chemistry. Initially regarded as a poor scholar, he eventually rose to top of the class.

*At the age of nineteen, Newton headed off to Cambridge University for a college education. In 1665, the Great Plague swept through Europe, causing the university to be closed for two full years.

*Newton returned home. He now had lots of time to pursue many of his scientific ideas.
1665-1666 is known as Newton’s “Miraculous Year.” During this time, Newton changed science forever.

*What did Newton discover during his “Miraculous Year?”
He invented Calculus.
He discovered many laws in physics, including the Three Laws of Motion.
He created the Theory of Optics (white light is made up of the rainbow colors).

*In 1687, Newton published his famed book called Principia.

*Did you ever hear the story of Newton’s apple? In the summer of 1666, Newton was sitting under an apple orchard when an apple fell from the tree. He knew there must be an invisible force that pulled the apple to the ground. Newton discovered gravity, an invisible force that affects objects.

*Newton died on March 20th, 1727, in London, England. At the time of his death, he was suffering from a bladder stone.

*Newton thought the universe worked like a machine and that a few simple laws governed it. Newton realized that mathematics was the way to explain and prove those laws.

*Newton was one of the World’s Greatest Scientists because he took his ideas, and the ideas of earlier scientists, and combined them into a unified picture of how the universe worked.

*Isaac Newton’s calculations changed the way people understood the universe.

Sources for Science Biography on Sir Isaac Newton:
*Phelan, G. (2006). An Invisible Force: The Quest to Define Three Laws of Motion. National Geographic Society:
Washington D.C.
*The Newton Project (2006). Imperial College of London. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from
*Famous People and Energy. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved on February 7, 2007, from

Examples of Children’s Literature that Relate to Forces and Motion:

*It’s Science! Forces Around Us by Sally Hewitt
This picture book has great definitions of all types of forces in a way that children understand what they are because they are things that apply to their lives.

*Move It! Motion, Forces and You Written by Adrienne Mason and Illustrated by Claudia Davila
This picture book explains the different types of motion that children make by doing it and what it is when it is occurring. It also has a section for parents and teachers in the back to expand the ideas mentioned in the book.

*An Invisible Force: The Quest to Define the Laws of Motion by Glen Phelan
This is a National Geographic Book, so the text is based for older children to read. It includes history information and includes a glossary and other resources for more information.

*Forces Make Things Move by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Illustrated by Paul Meisel
This children’s book explains the ways in which there are different forces and what can create movement and what can stop movement. It also has two pages at the end that are extension problems to further explain friction.

*Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Illustrated by Paul Meisel
This book provides an explanation of energy and how energy causes movement.

*Force and Motion by Clint Twist
This book is explains terms in a way children can understand them and also has examples of terms and theories. It asks questions that the students are suppose to answer with the answers on a different page. It also has a glossary and index.

*Go, Go, Go! Kids on the Move by Stephen R. Swinburne
This is an easy picture book but it could be used as an introduction to get students thinking about movement. It is about different ways in which children like to move.

*The Hidden World of Forces by Jack R. White
This is an upper level book that explains natural forces acting of various objects. It covers everything from gravity to static electricity.

*In the Spin of Things: Poetry of Motion by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Illustrations by Karen Dugan
This is a poetry book where the poems are centered on different objects and ways they move. It is a great book to combine language arts with science concepts.

*Why Doesn’t the Earth Fall Up? And Other Not Such Dumb Questions About Motion by Vicki Cobb and Illustrated by Ted Enik
This is an intermediate level book that concentrates on forces and motions. It covers different topics that students generally ask questions about, such as why a ball stops rolling.

*Flash! Bang! Pop! Fizz!: Exciting Science for Curious Minds by Janet Parks Chahrour and Illustrated by Ann Humphrey Williams
This is a book that has a large number of activities for students to do to expand their understanding. Students can experiment with philosophies and has numerous activities on gravity and motion.

*Move with Science: Energy, Force, and Motion. An Activities-based Teacher’s Guide by Roy Q. Beven
This is an excellent resource for teachers because it provides activities to explain energy, force, and motion. It also includes comments for the teacher, materials, and ways to extend the activities.

Questions Remaining About this topic:

What grade levels are appropriate to teach each of these physics concepts so that students can understand them?
Why is it not solely based on weight as to how fast an object will fall?
What is the relationship between gravity and motion?
What makes some forces greater than others?
What is the relationship between momentum and weight of an object?

Addition Teacher Comments (please add to this page as you discover new teaching strategies for this topic):