[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Programs & Awards  
[an error occurred while processing this directive] 2007 SPS National Interns
2007 Interns | 2007 Photo Gallery | All Interns | Internships Home

Justin Reeder Justin Reeder
University of Wisconsin - Platteville
Internship: SPS SOCK/ComPADRE: The Nucleus

After Action Review for Speed, Seatbelts and Motion Experiment
Tested at Tuckahoe Elementary School, Arlington, VA, June 19, 2007

Photo Album


  • Twenty 3rd Grade Students
  • Mrs. Theresa Coffman, Teacher
  • Gary White, SPS Director
  • Justin Reeder, 2007 SPS Intern
  • Andrea Roma, 2007 SPS Intern
  • Andrew Coughlin, 2007 SPS Intern
  • Meagan Saldua, 2007 SPS Intern

SPS Interns Justin Reeder (left) and Andrew
Coughlin (right). More photos here...

Event Description:

On June 19, 2007, SPS Director Gary White arranged for the 2007 SPS Interns to present a physics outreach program for Mrs. Theresa Coffman’s third grade class at Tuckahoe Elementary School. Our primary objective was to test a lesson plan on speed and motion designed by Dr. Leslie-Pelecky and Lisa M. Wiese which was then modified for classroom use by SPS Intern Ryan Field. We are looking to include this lesson plan in our 2007 SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit). Therefore this opportunity to test it out with one of our primary target groups was ideal.

We arrived at the school around 9:15 AM and began setting up our equipment in the classroom.  We cleared the central part of the room, did the initial setup of the ramps, prepared large graphs for the two groups to record data on, tested the radar guns, and pre-pressed the Playdoh for the test people.

At 10:00 we began our program.  The first thing we did was our initial introductions about ourselves and where we were from.  Next we gave a quick mini lesson on how to operate the Hot Wheels Radar Guns and allowed the students to verify there accuracy by testing them by having two volunteers walk in front of them while having their speed checked.

Then we broke up into groups to perform the ramp speed testing.  At each ramp we gave a quick presentation of how the student hand outs worked.  Then we broke them up into smaller sub groups and then commenced with the testing of the different speeds obtained from the various ramp heights.  If the guns were off from each other another run was made with the ramp.  After all the various heights were tested we had the students record the data on the group charts.

Next we had the students reassemble as a class to discuss the results. One group used an averaging system between the guns to record the data on their graphs and the other had just plotted the data.  This proved to be useful in the discussion by presenting the students with two different methods of data analysis which they could compare side-by-side.

Once we had discussed the results of the first experiment we had the students form into an assembly to cut out their test people.  Once this was complete we gave a quick demo of what the procedure was for the next test and what they would be responsible for.  We then initiated the testing run.  After the collision we had the students go around the car and analyze the crash.  We continuously asked them questions about if they thought the figures would need ambulance assistance, if getting thrown far away from your vehicle was good, etc.  This continual analysis of the crash kept the students interest and their excitement grew as the collisions became more violent with the increasing speed.

Once all the different velocities were tested, we did a couple of runs for fun and then got them back together as a group.  We then had the students look at the graphs they had made from the two experiments and then asked them to make conclusions about the hot wheels speed, the amount of injury that happened, and which belts seem to be very protective. We also asked them what real life applications this project had.

As our concluding fun demo we decided to give the students a physics thought problem.  We presented them with our Mentos rocket cars.  Due to lack of time we were unable to have the vehicles roll down a ramp for gravitation energy presentation so we just did a horizontal testing.  Unfortunately the ground where they were used proved to be too rough for the experiment to work properly however the students still used the scientific method to analyze how we could perform the experiment better in the future.

In conclusion I feel that this experiment was a tremendous success because it was am experiment with many practical applications.  The students learned how to collect and plot data from scientific experiments.  They learned how to ask questions and draw conclusions from the results of those experiments.  Finally they learned how to evaluate an experiment and to determine how to increase it’s reliability.


  • Experiment has many practical applications.
  • 5 presenters to 20 students good ratio for running this project.
  • Comparing and contrasting two groups’ different methods of data analysis worked out well for discussion.  (Averages vs. Plotting Data Points)
  • Having student hand outs very good idea.
  • Timing for material to be presented was right on.
  • Pre pressing dough good idea as a time saver.
  • Continually engaging students in questions after collisions and having them predict what will happen on next run is good.
  • Showing error, uncertainty, and approximation in experiment conduction and collection of data.
  • Students gave examples of how to improve some of the activities to minimize error.
  • Good refresher on kinetic and potential energy concepts.
  • Idea of having three seat experiment good for consistency.

 Possible Improvements:

  • Lost some attention during graphing process.
  • At times had students standing and observing rather than performing a task.
  • Classroom was small and this created a loud environment for testing.  Consider doing all explanations of the experiment and worksheets to the class as a whole.
  • More in depth explanation of how to use the radar gun.


 [an error occurred while processing this directive]