Middle school

Impact force, momentum, Newton’s third law

Last Updated Dec 1, 2020

This unit will introduce students to the issue of concussions.  Students will try to resolve this problem by ultimately designing a new helmet.  Activities throughout will explain the physics of collisions and how materials can reduce concussion events.

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Learning Objectives

Students will know

  • Newton’s three laws of motion
  • The relationship between force, time, mass, and change in velocity

Students will understand

  • How the application of force to the head can cause trauma
  • How helmet materials reduce the chances of concussions.

Students will be able to

  • Complete the engineering design process to protect an egg from a fall
  • Analyze data (including force, velocity, acceleration, and time) to determine the most protective material for a collision.
  • Analyze data by creating tables and graphs.
Standards Alignments + Connections

Next Generation Science Standards Connections

MS-PS2-1: Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Connections

8.6C: investigate and describe applications of Newton’s three laws of motion such as in vehicle restraints, sports activities, amusement park rides, Earth’s tectonic activities, and rocket launches


Determining the Problem

Students will watch the introductory video “What happens when you have a concussion?” by TED-Ed.  Students will then identify the problem at hand and will brainstorm solutions to this problem.


Solutions may include:

Better helmets

Changing sport rules

Adding sensors to helmets to detect concussions

Activities to Gather Evidence

Understanding Momentum

Students will drop three different balls on a surface and measure the bounce height.  This will introduce the relationship between mass and momentum to the students.

Learning About Protective Materials

Students will design a protective barrier for an egg, so that the egg can survive a drop from 4, 6, and 8 ft.  This will introduce students to the protective materials.

How Materials are Protective

Students use a simulation to collect data regarding the egg’s change in velocity, the time of the collision, and the force experienced.  The main takeaway from this is that the force can be lowered by increasing the time of the collision.  This force experienced by the egg is the same force felt by the floor surface.

NFL Data

Students discuss data collected by reconstructed NFL collisions that resulted in concussions.  Students will graph data to learn how acceleration and impact force are related.  Students will also compare collisions that resulted in concussions and collisions that did not in the form of a bar graph.

Designing Solutions

Students pick a material to use in a new helmet design.  Students then analyze the provided data to compare their material to no protection and see how the values of force and time of collision differ.

Conclusion Assessment

Students design a poster advertisement for their newly designed helmet, complete with slogans, pictures, and data.