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Instructors of introductory college physics courses are in a unique position to explain the physics of skateboarding and its associated risks. A field trip to a skate park to explore the law of conservation of energy and measure the impact forces can enhance student analytical thinking skills and their appreciation of physics in everyday life. Through the measurement of the impact forces and student discussions of their own skateboarding experiences, students are better prepared to protect themselves from skateboarding-related physical injuries. Due to its flexible and creative nature, skateboarding has become a popular action sport worldwide. In the United States, the number of skateboarders has increased steadily in the past four decades, with the vast majority of participants being under the age of 18.1 However, a recent paper published in the journal of Research in Sports Medicine highlighted the epidemiology and severity of pediatric and adolescent injuries caused by skateboarding, ranging from hospital visits to trauma with multiple fractures.2 Despite the popularity and inherent danger of skateboarding, there is little research on the physics of skateboarding. Two studies that analyzed the motion and forces pertaining to a skateboarding “ollie” exist, using imaging modeling or video analysis.3,4 Additionally, Feng and Xin showed numerical simulations of a skateboarder pumping energy through body motion.5 Finally, Determan et al. measured the impact force on skateboarders’ feet when they failed to land from a rail slide.6 To date, there has not been any experiment conducted by students to study the physics of skateboarding. In this paper, we demonstrate how to conduct an experiential learning activity. According to Lewis and Williams, experiential learning refers to “learning from experience or learning by doing” and “first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.”7 It is an active learning methodology where students put knowledge to use in the context of real-life experience. It also promotes teamwork and communication skills. Specifically, we will study the speed of the skateboard at the end of the flat bank (inclined plane) ramp and assess impact forces during a simulated vertical fall. Materials needed for the experiments include one item from each of the following: high-quality sport skateboard, produce carton box, book, tripod, protractor, 2-m stick, 3M double-sided tape (holding 16 lbs), 2-in Styrofoam padding, duct tape, as well as portable data collection devices including LabQuest®2, motion detector, and force plate.8


© 2022 Author(s). Original published version available at

Publication Title

The Physics Teacher





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