Forces and Motion

Taming bus drivers

Classroom Activity for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

This activity is all about explaining using sketches. The focus should be on changes in motion and inertia.

What to Prepare

  • a short passage from a recent news item
  • a pencil and some paper
  • a cylindrical plastic container containing a little water and a bowl to catch the drips
  • perhaps some prepared force, velocity and acceleration arrows

Here is a sample situation:

A bus company in China has launched a new safe driving campaign by suspending bowls of water over its drivers. To avoid getting wet, drivers must drive carefully.

What Happens During this Activity

Present students with a challenge:

Teacher: Can you explain what is happening in this situation, using the ideas of force, acceleration and mass?

Then interpret the challenge for the particular situation you've chosen. For example:

Teacher: What does the driver have to do so that they stay dry? How does it work?

You ought to encourage your students to draw a number of diagrams, perhaps at least two:

  • Where the bus driver takes the hint and drives carefully.
  • Where the bus driver doesn't take the hint.

For others you could provide more support – for example asking for a sketch of what happens to the water under different circumstances before asking for diagrams involving forces acting on isolated objects. You might even go so far as to really break it down for some:

  • What happens when the bus is travelling straight along the road at constant speed?
  • What happens when it suddenly stops?
  • What happens as it pulls away again?

For others you might want to push them by asking them to consider cornering as well as straight line motion.

It may be worth getting them to do two cartoon sequences as stories of a motion in parallel: one for the lived-in world and one for the physical world.

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