Our STEAM:Innovation class is currently investigating what forces are and how to predict the motion of the objects.  This is one of my favorite quests because forces are everywhere.  In fact, we can feel it and experience it everyday.  The hard part is dissecting what that experience is using Newton’s 3 Law of Motion as a grounding framework.  Now teaching middle school,  I’m not going to expose my student to calculating Force = mass x acceleration until they have good base to explain how these laws are applied.  The outcome of this quest is for them to use the Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion as a framework to describe what is going on in an action based scenario such as a boxing match.

I tell my students that that I’ve been in a number of boxing and muay thai matches and these matches are all about getting our opponent off balance.   This imbalance means that the forces of the subject is greater than the force of the object that the subject is applying the force to.  In addition to peaking their interest in one my exhibition match,  I also took a scene from that exhibition match, created a force body diagram that eventually my learners will create and analyze.  For them to create their own force body diagram,  you need to peak their interest, model the diagram and model that analysis, give them practice, and how them find a scenario of themselves in action.

Below is the first round of the match (Peaking their interest)

Below is the force body diagram of a scene (Modeling the Thinking)

Below is the analysis using Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion

Newton’s First Law of Motion (Inertia)

My opponent weighs 190 lbs. and Mr. Aringo at the time weighs 160 lbs. My opponent outweighs me by 30 lbs. and therefore my opponent has higher inertia that I do. The implications behind this scenario is that his punches have a greater impact than my punches. I need to place more effort in the leverage of my footwork and the mechanics of my arm to equal out his effort. In other words, it takes more effort and force from me to accelerate my opponent back which makes this match challenging.  Plus his punches hurt.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion

Focusing on just my arm, my arm/hands has mass (I didn’t weigh it). Based on the the footage my arm accelerated and applied a force on my opponent’s chin. My opponent’s chin has mass and is also applying a force back at my hand once I made contact with it.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

When my hand made contact with my opponent’s chin, I create enough force to accelerate his chin in the same direction as my punch. Though this chin is applying a force back at my hand, his chin’s force is less than the force of my punch creating an imbalance of forces. As a result, his chin accelerated in the same direction as my punch. In other words, the action is the force of my punch and the opposite but equal reaction is the force of my opponent’s chin being applied to my fist.

Implication Behind This Practice

Physical science is full of abstract concepts.  Our role as STEAM, STEM, and science teachers is to cleverly convert the abstract concepts to something tangible, interesting, unforgettable, and relatable so that our learners can make an association between the abstract concepts and the experience. I made the connection between a boxing match to the concept of forces due an action which is a punch.  It is also important to model the behavior of interest. Demonstrating how to make a force body diagram and analyzing the scene is needed so that our students can also mimic that thinking.  Making a force body diagram does take time, so practice is needed so that student can learn how draw several and explain it.  The end goal of this mission and quest is to verify that our students have an accurate mental model of how Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion is applied to any action based on any scenario of their interest.

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Ryan Li
2 years ago

This class was great as well!