Build a car at home and compete for fun! Use materials already in your house and learn about Newton’s Law while racing your cars. Mr. Downey is a Muscogee County School District Educator working at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.
Lesson: Newton’s laws of motion are the guide for all space companies and the designs they develop for the spacecraft we use to leave Earth’s surface. The first law says that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by a force. Think about a leaf motionless on the ground until the wind comes along and blows it around. The second law is all about the relationships between force, mass, and acceleration. Think about hammering a nail into a wooden board. The heavier the hammer or faster you swing the hammer, the more force you are placing on the nail. The 3rd law is what NASA and other space companies design their rockets around. For every action, there is an opposite, but equal, reaction.
The Newton car activity demonstrates this through a balloon. When air escapes the balloon in one direction, it forces the balloon in the opposite direction. Using this law, scientists develop rockets that burn rocket fuel which causes the gas to expand and exit the nozzles at the bottom of rockets pushing downward. This action causes the rocket to be pushed in the opposite direction, upward into the skies. As basic sounding as this law is, it is the only way we can currently get the power and speed needed to escape Earth’s gravity (11.2 km/s).
What did you learn? Try answering these questions: Now that you understand the 3 laws, think back to the Newton car activity and see If you can think of answers to the following:
When building the car I mentioned that the size of the cardboard mattered because it would determine how far the car traveled. What other things could you change or modify on the car to make it travel further/faster?
Would the car travel further/faster if the straw was wider or smaller?
Would it help more to have wheels that are thin like a CD or thicker like the cap on sports drinks? CDs are very large and drink caps are smaller. Would that matter as well?
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