Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sweeping Kinetics

Last week I left the rubbish on the streets and encouraged you to make a mess in the classroom.  Partly because kinematics does not help us to analyse the forces involved in sweeping rubbish or, more glamorously, an ice hockey puck.  This is the realm of kinetics in which we need to consider the forces acting on objects to cause or impede their motion, such as the push from a broom and the friction against the pavement.  See the 5E lesson plan attached for more details on how Newton’s laws of motion can be applied in these situations.

You might be thinking ‘why should engineers be interested in forces involved in sweeping rubbish?’  Well, it might not be as glamorous as designing sports equipment but someone has to design street sweeping machines that keep our towns and cities clean and it is arguably more beneficial to society and the environment.  Of course, it would be better for the environment if we didn’t drop rubbish that needed sweeping but that’s another post…


For more on 5E lesson plans see: my post entitled ‘Disease of the modern age’ on June 26th, 2013 and ‘Sizzling Sausages’ on July 3rd, 2013.

For a set of videos on kinetics try:


Kinematics leaves rubbish

On the street outside my house leaves are being swirled into piles against the railings that guard the light-well for our basement.  In other streets, not graced by trees, discarded packaging from take-away meals eaten in the street is being blown around eluding the best efforts of the city’s refuse collectors.  This phenomenon is an ‘everyday experience’ for the vast majority of people although the content of the wind-blown detritus may vary depending on where you live.  It is not difficult to reproduce similar conditions in the classroom using the contents of the recycling bin and to use the motion of sheets of paper, screwed up balls of paper and paper airplanes to discuss the kinematics of motion and the limitations of its assumptions, i.e. that the geometry of an object has no influence on its motion, which restricts the cases we can consider using kinematics.  Think particles with mass but negligible size and shape plus objects that can be approximated in this way.  The 5E lesson plan attached below expands on this theme for instructors interested in using this Everyday Example.


For more on 5E lesson plans see: my post entitled ‘Disease of the modern age’ on June 26th, 2013 and ‘Sizzling Sausages’ on July 3rd, 2013.

If you want more on kinematics try: