They’re Off! Marble Racing Machines Incorporate Physics and Art

07 Jan 2018
High school physics students demonstrate to elementary students the marble machine mechanics and machinery. High school physics students demonstrate to elementary students the marble machine mechanics and machinery. Laurie Mitchell

With the $800.00 matching grant received by Holy Spirit School art teacher Tricia Schuster from The Arts in Education Fund Community Foundation of West Alabama and with Holy Spirit sponsors Kyser Construction, the Glover family, Elle Emery, Laurie Mitchell, Patrick Coleman and Tricia Schuster, students had the opportunity to complete a “motion and mechanics” project that ties in both art and engineering.

Students in Patrick Coleman’s high school physics class at Holy Spirit helped to build four “marble machines” and components for the elementary students to use based on a project from www.tinkering.exploratorium.edu.  The project had several objectives:

  1. To introduce physics at a young age (4th, 5th, and 6th graders) and to allow them to investigate concepts at the intersection of art, science, and technology.
  2. To encourage collaboration by having 10 stations working at the same time where students can learn from each other.
  3. To share work by artists who have created rolling ball sculptures such as George Rhoads and Jeffrey Zachman to inspire young artists.

The Marble Machine provides the goal of creative thinking to express understanding by discovering diverse solutions to the shared goal of getting the marble from the top to the bottom while engaging, encouraging, and inspiring young artists to also think mechanically.

Students learn motion and mechanics.

The machines will now be kept at the Tuscaloosa Arts Council facility in downtown Tuscaloosa in order for teachers throughout the county to be able to borrow them for use in different schools.  Educators can contact the Arts Council in Tuscaloosa to borrow the machines for use in their classrooms.

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