Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Transportation Systems Engineering

Teacher Resource Center

Lesson Overview
Lesson Title:
Got Inertia?

Mr. Rich Powers (Primary)

Brief Description:
This lesson about inertia will use various illustrations, animations, and video to explain inertia, the importance of transportation engineering, and why it is important to wear seat belts

Topics Introduced:
Inertia, Velocity, Acceleration, Force

Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Curriculum Framework Components Addressed:
Logistics Planning and Management Services
Transportation Systems/ Infrastructure Planning, Management and Regulation
Suggested Grade Levels:
7th Grade
8th Grade

Standards Taught:
8.3.2 Science 2003
8.5.3 Science 2003

Lesson Information
Learning Expectations:

The students will be able to apply the First Law of Motion and the property of inertia to explain the motions of various objects, such as the moon, crash test dummies inside automobiles, and race cars on an oval track.

Plan Of Action:

1. Start with short video trailer that highlights examples of inertia (car crashes, crash test dummies, Funniest Home Videos people mishaps) End of video will show the moon orbiting the earth.

2. Question: “Why does the moon stay in orbit?” Take answers from students. Question: “Why would the moon fly off into outer space?”

3. Show video clip of racecars going around a track.

4. Question: “What keeps a racecar from flying off a race track?” Take answers from students. Question: “Why would a car want to leave the track?”

5. Introduce the term “Inertia” and the first half of Newton’s First Law of Motion (object at rest) Show Card Kick with cup, card and quarter. Pass out Card Kick materials (cups, cards and quarters). Demonstrate inertia by placing card on upright cup and placing quarter on top of card. Teacher will flick card and quarter will drop into cup. Have the students try to put the quarter in the cup.

6. Continue to demonstrate the concept of inertia by showing short video of magician pulling tablecloth out from under dishes. Demonstrate Tugging the Tablecloth for the students by placing chess pieces on piece of paper and pulling the paper out from under the chess pieces. Pass out the Tugging the Tablecloth materials and let the students try the experiment.

7. Introduce the second half of Newton’s First Law of Motion (object in motion) by showing Truck vs. Wall video. Teacher illustrates that the engine keeps going even though the truck has stopped.

8. Continue demonstrating motion inertia by showing video acquired from MwRSF content with crash test dummies. Illustrate the direction of the dummies and their continued motion using arrows placed on top of video using still frame editing.

9. Talk about the importance of safety belts and how important it is to stay in the car during a crash. Show the statistics of U.S. Motor vehicle deaths acquired from UNL Engineering (TSE)  presentation and Seatbelt vs. Non seatbelt crashes data.

10. Restate question “What keeps a racecar from flying off a race track? Lead the students into the next section by asking, “Is the track flat when drivers go around corners?” Show content concerning banked exit ramps acquired from UNL Engineering (TSE).

11. Lead questioning by asking the students “What if the racecar cannot stay on the track due to its inertia?” – It crashes

12. Assure the students that cars due crash into walls when the friction of the tires and the banking of the racetrack is not suffiecient to overcome inertia. Show video acquired from MwRSF with various vehicles hitting the wall. Show the Indy car video of the car continuing in a straight line but smashing the front end.

13. Talk about the importance of seatbelts when enduring an impact with a hard object (animal, tree, wall, etc.) Introduce HALO system used in NASCAR.

14. Introduce the work of MwRSF and the safety wall. Show video and charts of the difference between the hard wall and the “soft” wall.

15. Show the dangers of inertia when reacting to an unplanned diversion in the road such as a deer. Show the illustration/animation of the car swerving to miss a deer. Hand out illustration/worksheet “Oh, Dear!” and have the students draw arrows on the worksheet to show the various directions of the car’s inertia as it tries to avoid hitting the deer. The students then answer questions about inertia that relate to a crash between the car and the deer.

16. Further: Start talking about Newton’s second law as it relates to larger moving vehicles. (CCC Simulator Trucks and Trains)

17. Further: Inertia works in more directions than horizontal. Show flying dog video and talk about vertical inertia. The “Vomit Comet” can be shown and discussed at this time.

Data Set Used:

Optional: Data can be collected from Tablecloth experiment (how far cup moves with added mass) Control features would need to be added for strength of the pull for data to be usuable.

Materials Needed:

Card Kick - Cups, pennies, 3 X 5 cards

Tablecloth - Cups, pennies (or other objects with mass), paper (simulated tablecloth)


Preparation Period:

It will take several days to collect the video and run the question worksheets. It should also take several days for the students to get through the material to have some back ground knowledge to complete the assignments and answer the questions.

Implementation Period:

This lesson will take several days for the students to cover the background knowledge and do the activity.

Science, Math, Engineering and / or Technology Implications:

See "plan of action" for links between inertia lesson and Science, Math, Engineering and/or Technology Implications

Considerations for Diversity in Education:

Multiple Modalities: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic

Lesson Files
Written Lecture and Demonstration Guide and Practice
[size: 1120768] [date uploaded: Jul 16, 2008, 2:14 am ]

Got Inertia Student Handout
This is a guide for the students to use as they follow along with the video and mini-labs.
[size: 1120768] [date uploaded: Apr 14, 2009, 9:49 am ]

Inertia Video Dialog Sheet
This is one way to introduce, discuss, and explain the inertia video.
[size: 37376] [date uploaded: Apr 14, 2009, 9:51 am ]

Inertia Pre and Post test
Pre and post test.
[size: 41984] [date uploaded: Apr 14, 2009, 9:52 am ]

Inertia Pre and Post test
Pre and post test
[size: 41984] [date uploaded: Apr 14, 2009, 9:56 am ]

Inertia Pre and Post test
Pre and Post test
[size: 41984] [date uploaded: Apr 14, 2009, 9:57 am ]

Some video files may require Adobe Flash to open or view.
Download Adobe Flash Player