Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers


Posted on: June 22, 2008

My wife asked me why my Rollerblades were in my trunk. She knows I don’t use them where we live, there are too many hills. I’m a Physics teacher, the answer should be obvious – Conservation of Momentum. Tell me the truth, don’t you look to do something unexpected to get you students’ attention. In graduate school we called it disequilibrium.

You should have seen their faces the day I skated into class. Of course I have the racing bearings which work well for classroom demonstrations. The idea is to start at a standstill and throw a heavy object and watch the object go one way and me the other. I also carried a box of textbooks and while moving forward, threw them ahead of me. They could see that I instantly slowed down. This is what dreams are made of. There will be NO photos, use your imagination.


8 Responses to "Rollerblades"

Always good to read about Rollerblading, my ex was of olympic standards..

Can I ask though – how did you get this picked up and into google news?

Very impressive, is it something that is just up to Google or you actively created?

Obviously this is a popular blog with great data so well done on your seo success..

I made the news??? Must be a slow news day. All I’ve done is post my stuff and the world is beating a path to my blog. I’m glad to know I’m helping some people out there. I fear science is losing to pseudoscience. The response to this blog gives me some hope.

Can I ask though – how did you get this picked up and into google news?

Very impressive that this blog is syndicated through Google and is it something that is just up to Google or you actively created?

Obviously this is a popular blog with great data so well done on your seo success..

Rollerblading greats you should write about next, my ex was a Windsurfing champ!

Hi Scott

Great demos for rollerbaldes. I use the throw opposite ways but not the textbook idea which is gold, thanks! I also do other stuff on impact, crumple zones, collisions, etc. I’m currently developing new demos for a sports science show performed on rollerblades and wondered if you had any other ideas?

Among other demos, like inertia, I use roller blades to introduce motion and reference frame. I get them to say why exactly it is that they think I’m moving, and we go through all the reasons they can come up with (the wheels are turning, my hair is blowing in the breeze, etc.) including the obvious “you’re just moving.” Then I bring out the really big question – how do they know that I’m moving and it’s not that they’re moving? I always get several in each class who will say out loud a big “whoa!” and I know I’ve just fried their brains. Very satisfying!

Oh yeah, I then talk about relative motion (pushing a kid on a skateboard or office chair), and so many other things. Love the roller blades! Oh, btw, I taught 8th grade phys sci for 4 years and have now moved up to high school in a different district, so I’m planning to use the same demos and so forth.

Thanks for a great website!

This is a great experience for the kids! I wonder how well it would work to do collisions on roller blades … Maybe one student at rest and another moving and the two perform an inelastic collision (hold on to each other) and move slower than the moving one started at. Maybe it would be better to have some other rolling mass that the moving student would be less likely to tackle during the demonstration.

One of my favorite problems to work is a scene from an episode of Futurama called “Godfellas”. Bender ends up flying through space with a bag of pirate swag at a speed too fast for the ship to catch up to him. He says “I’m going too fast; I gotta lose momentum” and starts throwing pieces of swag forward to slow himself. We make some estimates on his speed, how fast he can throw, and his mass, then calculate how much swag he’d have to throw in order to stop himself completely.

I love doing movie physics, and Futurama is one of my favorites. The number of Ph.D.’s on the writing staff is staggering, and the little science and math jokes throughout the show are so clever. Plus, every once in a while there are some really great physics moments (another favorite is when Fry, dressed as a super hero, jumps off a balcony to catch a precious gem that is falling, and is told by Leela that he can’t fall fast enough to catch up to it).

Hi Andrew,

I really like this idea. Was there a “worksheet” or something you created for the Futurama activity? Would you be willing to upload it?


It’s great to hear that other Science teachers are using rollerblading to illustrate conservation of momentum! A few years ago I skated into a classroom too and it certainly excited the students – the topic…. transport!!!!

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