The Physics of Skateboarding: A Lesson Your Students Will Love

tommymenna
Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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As a physics teacher, you're always looking for engaging ways to bring the subject to life for your students. One topic that's sure to pique their interest is the connection between physics and skateboarding. Our AP® Physics 1 & 2 Textbook pictured below features professional skateboarder Lizzie Armanto on the cover, highlighting this exciting link between science and sport. Here's how you can use skateboarding to help teach your students fundamental physics concepts and spark their enthusiasm for learning.

 

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1. Perfecting Skateboard Tricks

When students watch skateboarders perform impressive tricks like ollies or kickflips, they may not realize that these feats are actually demonstrations of fundamental physics concepts such as force, momentum, and energy. By examining the mechanics of these tricks, students can gain valuable insights into how forces and motion work in the real world.

A practical lesson idea would be to have students analyze slow-motion videos of skateboarders performing various tricks. This will help them visualize the forces at play and understand how skateboarders manipulate these forces to achieve their desired outcome.

 

2. Speed and Control

The principles of friction, inertia, and angular momentum are essential for understanding how skateboarders maintain speed and control during their rides2. Teaching these concepts through the lens of skateboarding can make them more relatable and engaging for students.

For example, you could demonstrate how different types of wheels and bearings affect a skateboard's speed and grip. By examining the materials and design of various skateboard components, students can see firsthand how physics concepts apply to everyday objects.

 

3. Exploring Skatepark Physics

Skateparks offer a wealth of opportunities to teach students about the physics of curved surfaces, ramps, and transitions3. By analyzing the design of skatepark features such as halfpipes, bowls, and vert ramps, students can explore concepts like gravitational potential energy, centripetal force, and conservation of energy.

An interactive lesson idea would be to organize a field trip to a local skatepark, where students can observe skateboarders in action and analyze the physics principles at play. Alternatively, you could use videos or simulations to demonstrate these concepts in the classroom.

 

4. Engineering Behind Skateboarding Gear

Skateboard decks, trucks, and wheels are all designed with physics in mind, making them excellent examples of applied engineering. By studying the craftsmanship behind skateboarding gear, students can learn about material properties, stress distribution, and vibration damping4.

Consider inviting a guest speaker from the skateboarding industry to discuss the engineering challenges involved in creating high-performance gear. This can help students appreciate the real-world applications of physics and inspire them to consider careers in engineering or design.

 

5. Resources for Further Exploration

To help you incorporate skateboarding into your physics lessons, here are some resources that offer additional information and lesson ideas:

By incorporating the physics of skateboarding into your curriculum, you can capture your students' interest and show them how the principles they're learning apply to the real world. So, grab your helmet and knee pads, and get ready to ride the wave of enthusiasm that this exciting topic is sure to generate!

 

Discover BFW Publishers’ engaging textbook program, College Physics for the AP® Physics 1 & 2 Courses, designed specifically for AP® Physics 1 & 2. This comprehensive resource is fully aligned with the forthcoming AP® Physics 1 & 2 Course and Exam Description (CED) and features real-world examples, including a unique connection between physics and skateboarding. With professional skateboarder Lizzie Armanto on the cover, this program is sure to captivate your AP® students and deepen their understanding of physics principles - while providing one-of-a-kind and essential AP® Practice and features. 

 

Footnotes

  1. Frost, J. (2018). The Physics of an Ollie: How Does It Work? Retrieved from https://sciencing.com/physics-ollie-works-18001.html
  2. Exploratorium. (n.d.). Skateboard Science: Friction. Retrieved from https://www.exploratorium.edu/skateboarding/friction.html
  3. Nelson, R. A. (2002). The Physics of Skateboarding. Retrieved from https://www.realskate.com/physics.htm
  4. Aschwanden, C. (2001). The Science of the Skateboard. Retrieved from https://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/sports/a5749/science-of-the-skateboard/
  5. Follow Lizzie Armanto!