Learning the Physics of Skateboarding Engages Kids in Science

Learning the Physics of Skateboarding Engages Kids in Science


>>Dr Skateboard: A skateboarder in
a skate park is actively analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating
their environment. You’re working with simple machines and a compound machine,
like a skateboard. You’re looking at angles and
the geometry of a skate park, making small adjustments
built on trial and error. I think that’s something
that scientists and skateboarders have in common. They look at the word
a little differently, and through a lens
of their discipline.>>Dr Skateboard: Okay, so
the idea here is, you know, you’re going to be riding in the
bowl, and you’re going to be kind of working between sort of unbalanced
forces and balanced forces.>>Dr Skateboard: My name is Bill
Robertson, I’m an Associate Professor at the University of
Texas at El Paso. I have a background
in History, Biology, Spanish and in the Specialization
and Science Education.>>Yeah, All right!>>Dr Skateboard: I’ve
been a skateboarder since I was 13-years-old. It’s part of who I am. It’s how I see the world. It’s my passion.>>Dr Skateboard: You were
cruising around pretty fast, and then you went up
the, in the invert. So like how do you think you moved from like balanced forces
to unbalanced forces? How did you stall it like that?>>Student: It’s all about motion. You go with the flow, like…>>Dr Skateboard: One of
my skateboarding buddies, when I told him I was getting my PhD
and I was going to become a doctor, he said, “Dude, I don’t
know anybody with a PhD.” And that’s when I started thinking
about Dr. Skateboard, you know, putting what I learned
and skateboarding together with my goals in education. So what kinds of kids do you
encounter at a skate park? Well, they’re typically people
who really enjoy the sport. They’re inherently creative. They’re daring. And for the most part,
they are dissatisfied with their learning in school. Where does learning really occur? Learning takes place
when people go to areas of high risk and high ambiguity. And so if you think about
your own learning, you know, if you go do something
that you’ve memorized, or something that’s not
really that challenging, you’re not really learning
a whole lot. But when you learn something, there’s usually something
you’re laying on the line. For young people, the risk sometimes
is, “Am I going to be embarrassed in front of my classmates?” You’re really going to do tricks
that are risky, and in some ways, they take you to places
you’ve never been. The ambiguity part is
something that it’s unknown. “What’s going to happen here?” And that’s where learning occurs.>>Dr Skateboard: Sweet, man! So, the one trick that caught my eye
in there, there was a bunch of them, you know, but one was doing
the blunt, like where you go up and you kind of balance on the
tail, and then you pop it back in. But how do you make that trick?>>Student: You got to compress
your knees to drive that force back to slow yourself down so you
have enough speed just to get– just enough just to get up and stall.>>Dr Skateboard: Skateboarders
really do see the world differently. They’re always looking at their
world as something to skate. And so it’s a matter of seeing
not only the physics behind it, but analyzing, synthesizing,
evaluating and creativity. The upper part of Bloom’s Taxonomy.>>Dr Skateboard: Big front-side air. So Diego? Let me ask you, so
what do you need to do to make that front-side air, you think?>>Diego: I made a false start.>>Dr Skateboard: They are looking
at their environment in ways that they’re dealing with speed,
momentum, velocity, acceleration. They’re talking about motion.>>Student: It’s motion
inertia, then just inertia where you’re just sitting
and with motion inertia, it’s like cranking a little toy. You do it the faster you
can, the more speed you get. The slower you do it, that’s like you’re not going
to get that much speed.>>Dr Skateboard: So you
kind of create speed and force just out
of gravity, really.>>Student: Yeah, that’s
all it is, man. That and good times,
that and good times, man.>>Dr Skateboard: That’s for sure.>>Student: All right, cool!>>Dr Skateboard: They’re,
in many ways, embodying these principles of flight. You know, lift, gravity,
thrust and drag being used. But they’re not thinking
about it in those terms.>>Dr Skateboard: The park is
sort of like your laboratory. You’re using all this science. ‘Cause you make some
subtle adjustments to make sure tricks happen, you know?>>Student: Yeah, like
it’s just one little thing that will make the trick different. You put your foot a little bit to the
left, you’re not going to land it. One inch to the right,
you’ll land it perfectly. It’s more like how precise it is. You have to be really kind of
precise with skateboarding.>>Dr Skateboard: So one of the
things we talk about with that is like it’s very kinetic,
but at the mid-point, it kind of pauses,
and so it has that…>>Student: It’s like potential, and
then as I make the movement, kinetic, and then potential at that one
split second that I stop the board in mid-air, and then becomes kinetic
again, whenever I flick it back.>>Dr Skateboard: I think
by knowing the term, and by know what they’re
trying to do, they can actually help
themselves learn more, because they can find a practical
application in their own lives. You really are in some ways living
out sort of a scientific method. You’re thinking of a hypothesis. Some trick you want to learn. You’re looking at your environment,
seeing, “Where can I best do this?” So you’re analyzing
what you’re going to do. You’re going to go
through some trials. You’re going to collect some data. And then you’re going to
kind of have an outcome. Did I figure it out? Did I not do it? What do I need to do to change? Skate parks become their classroom, and it become their
field-based environment, where they can achieve
success in learning. My mission has always been
that people will see something in skateboarding, and understand
that there’s a certain amount of mastery that goes on in here. And mastery, to me, is one of the
most important characteristics in having success in anything. You know, if you can
master something, you can probably master
something else. I’m trying to reach out
to the kid who’s maybe not that interested in school. Who’s maybe a bit marginalized. And we’re trying to find pathways
for those people to learning. Skateboarding is something that
I think we always look at sort of a youth fad that you pass through. But one thing I found out is, you
know, skateboarding is here to stay. And I think if we can tap
into what kids like to do, and help them to make
connections to their learning. And that we can carefully guide
them, and caringly guide them through this process, they
can really achieve success.

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