Thursday, August 4, 2022

Short Lessons on Centripetal Force and Tea Cups

Last week I took my older daughter to Storyland to ride the roller coaster as many times as she wanted to. Today, I'm taking my younger daughter for a daddy-daughter day at Storyland. Her favorite rides are the Flying Dutch Shoes, Alice's Tea Cups, and the Cuckoo Clockenspiel. In other words, she likes to spin around and feel the effects of centripetal force. 

Thinking about those spinning rides prompted me to look for some concise explanations of centripetal force. Here are a few resources that I found that could be helpful to students. 

CK-12 offers a couple of interactive simulations and lessons about centripetal force. Students can use these on their own or as part of a larger lesson that you lead. 

Planet Nutshell published a concise, animated explanation of centripetal force. You can watch it here or as embedded below. 



Here's a student-produced video addressing centripetal force in the context of "the tea cup problem." Jump to the two minute mark to see how he enlists the help of his brother to create the explanation.


Finally, PhET offers lots of lessons and interactives to help students understand various forces in physics. Make sure you look at their list whenever you need help explaining a physics concept to students.