Students can engineer a simple hovercraft that illustrates Newton’s laws of motion and frictional force. Newton’s laws explain how the craft “hovers” above a surface and how the craft reacts to an applied force. Introduce frictional force when the hovercraft is inflated, as it glides over the floor on a cushion of air, and after it rests on the floor.
PE HS-PS2-1. Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration.
Glue guns are a source of heat. Hot glue can stick to fingers and burn the skin. Follow all directions carefully.
Students should sketch and describe the motions of the hovercraft.
Descriptions and sketches will vary.
Explain in detail which of Newton’s laws were illustrated in this activity.
Students must include inertia, F = ma, and action/reaction. Some may use the second law to explain how the force they exert on the CD can change the velocity at which the hovercraft travels. They should also note that friction is the force that slows or stops the motion of the hovercraft.
Explain differences in the force of friction between the hovercraft on a smooth surface and on a rough surface.
There is more friction when the CD is pushed along the floor than when the CD is moving through the air.
Use a diagram illustrating the microscopic view of the surfaces to generate a model for friction in this activity.
A hovercraft generates a cushion of air that prevents the solid surface of the hovercraft from making contact with the ground surface, thereby reducing friction.
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