Students Design Devices to Cushion the Fall of a Bocce Ball

This week, 9th Grade physics students learned about the concepts of free fall, momentum, and impulse as they tested devices that they designed to cushion the fall of a bocce ball.

Working in teams, the students' goal was to make a device that would minimize the force with which the bocce ball hit the ground with as few materials as possible. To design their protective device, students could choose up to seven materials from a list that included cotton balls, elastic bands, straws, a paper cup, saran wrap, a balloon, Q-tips, pom poms, toilet paper rolls, macaroni, and construction paper. 

The bocce ball project replaces the "egg drop" that the 9th Grade physics students did in past years. The egg drop project involved dropping eggs from various heights and protecting them with devices that the students designed. The new project allows the students to actually measure the force with which the bocce ball hits the ground and is made possible thanks to new force plates in the Math & Science Center.

Students tested and tweaked their devices throughout the week, trying to reduce the impact force from a starting level of approximately 950 newtons (as if there were no device). The most successful teams brought the impact force down to 125 newtons or less.


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