Auburn Elementary Students Learn to Apply Newton’s 1st Law of Motion

Avondale School District students enjoy hand-on Science experience

For a group of fifth grade students at Auburn Elementary in Avondale School District, science came alive when the Science with the Engineers team showed up for a lesson about Newton’s 1st Law of Motion. “Pretend you are an astronaut and your space station has been hit by a meteor,” began retired General Motors engineer Tom Chaput, “a crew member is hurt and he must be rushed back to Earth on a one seat glider. He might not land safely,” said Chaput as he showed the students the crew member, “we call him Eggbert.” The class broke into laughter when they saw the egg in Chaput’s hand.

Fifth graders try their hands at safety design

Fifth graders try their hands at safety design

“Yes, Eggbert is an egg,” Chaput said, responding to the laughter, “and we’re going to use Newton’s 1st Law of Motion to try to land him safely back on earth.”

The students listened closely while Chaput and his associates, Jeff Gerber and Curt Chastain – also retired engineers from General Motors – explained how the outcomes for Eggbert had everything to do with Newton’s Law. “Much like when engineers design automobile safety equipment, Newton’s Law is one of the sciences that drives those designs,” said Chaput.

Following the lesson, students broke into teams of two to design the restraints (seat and shoulder belts) and padding (air bags) needed for Eggbert to survive the glide back to Earth that would (for the experiment’s purpose) end in a sudden crash into a wall. Students tried their designs, tweaked their designs, and threw out their designs until they felt they’d constructed the safest possible way for an egg to fall from outer space and land safely on the ground. When all of the teams had put the finishing touches on their make-shift seat belts and air bags, they were given the opportunity to test their idea by placing Eggbert into the seat of the glider and sending him along a gently inclined wire to a sudden stop. The experiment, titled Starbase Atlantis – Force and Motion is just one of about two dozen activities the engineers bring with them to schools around the State of Michigan. “Science with the Engineers is a good fit for our classroom curriculum,” said Auburn Elementary Principal BJ McCabe, “the experiments are fun and the students love hands-on experiences. We’re fortunate that our PTO sees the value of funding enrichment activities that add to our curriculum.”

Science with the Engineer’s goal is to inspire students to pursue further learning in the STEM disciplines that will eventually lead them to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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