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Virtual Science Fair

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For A Loop

Have science fun as a family! Complete activities with parental supervision.

  • Small bucket or basket with a handle
  • Soft, light object to fit in the bucket (examples: ping pong ball, stuffed animal, bean bag, balled-up sock)
  • Approximately 3 feet of rope, string, or even a scarf!
  1. Find a place you can swing the basket around safely (like outside!) You will need at least 10 feet of clearance all around you. Make sure there is nothing breakable nearby, like a TV, windows, or your grandma’s plate collection.
  2. Securely tie the rope to the handle of the basket. Have an adult make certain it’s secure.
  3. Practice swinging the basket. Hold the string in one hand and swing the basket in front of you. When the basket is in the air, move your arm in big circles. Keep practicing until you get the hang of it!
  4. Place the small, soft object into the basket. Can you make this object stay in the basket, even when the bucket is upside down?
  5. Tightly hold onto the end of the rope and swing the basket in circles around you in the air. What happens to the object inside of the basket?
  6. Experiment with swinging faster or slower. What happens?
  7. Be sure to take a picture or video to share in the Facebook comments on the Buffalo Museum of Science or Tifft Nature Preserve pages!

What’s it all about?

Forces are the pushes or pulls on an object that can make that object move. Scientists use the following equation to describe force:

F = force
m = mass of an object (how much matter something contains)
a = acceleration (change in speed)

You are creating forces by swinging the bucket on a rope. Typically, a moving object wants to continue moving in its original direction, on the straightest path. This is called inertia – the resistance to change in motion. But by holding the rope, you are creating an opposing force— a centripetal force toward your body which prevents the bucket from flying off. This causes the bucket to move in a circular path around you.

Try It!
  • What would happen if you tried another item? Swap out your ball for a stuffed animal or something else light and unbreakable! Does that change the results?
  • Once you have practiced, and it’s warm enough outside to potentially get wet, try placing a plastic bowl filled with water in the bucket or basket. Will these invisible forces keep the water in the bucket while it is upside down?

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