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Forces at the Olympics

In this worksheet, students will be offered an opportunity to explore the way in which forces are considered as part of Olympic sport.

'Forces at the Olympics' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 2

Curriculum topic:  Forces

Curriculum subtopic:  Resistance and Friction

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Sport is one area in which forces are a vital part of what goes on.

 

Children playing sport

 

The Olympics offer an enormous range of sports so let's have a look at how forces have to be taken into consideration when competing to win the gold medal.

 

Olympic medals

At the London 2012 Olympics the Great British cycling team were very successful. Whilst training is tremendously important, understanding forces and how to design equipment with forces in mind is just as important.

 

Look at these two cycling helmets:

 

 Bike helmet Olympic cyclist 
HELMET A HELMET B

 

Why do you think the cycling team chose Helmet B?

it's a better colour

it's more streamlined

it's more comfortable

When they are cycling it's important to try to reduce the forces acting against the bike and rider to a minimum.

 

Which of the following do you think the team designed carefully to maximise speed (tick all you think apply)?

wheels

clothing

lights

mudguards

saddle

Over in the athletics stadium the runners had to choose what sort of footwear would be best to get the fastest time. Here are their choices:

 

Running spikes Trainers Football boots
A B C

 

 

All the athletes chose shoe A. Why do you think that was?

they liked the colour better

the spikes gave them more grip

they were more streamlined

they were lighter

Moving to the gymnastics arena, the competitors had a lot of forces to think about as well. On the high bar many chose to rub their hands in something just before their turn - what do you think they put on their hands?

 

Gymnast on high bar

hand cream

soap

chalk

butter

Football also features at the Olympics.

 

Football

 

The goalkeeper always chooses to wear a pair of gloves. What do you think that's for?

to grip the ball better

to keep their hands warm

to stop their hands getting muddy

because the ball hurts when it hits their hands

The Aquatics Centre was a very popular venue.

 

Swimmer

 

It was noticeable that all the competitors wore swimming caps for their race. Why do you think they did?

to stop their hair getting wet

to make their heads more streamlined

so they can be identified more easily in the water

to stop water getting in their ears

The world swimming record for the men's 100m freestyle is just under 47 seconds while Usain Bolt can run the same distance in less than 10 seconds.

 

Why do you think there's such a big difference?

water pushes against you with more force than air

swimming's a lot harder than running

in running you only use your legs

In weightlifting the competitor has to lift a bar of weights above their head.

 

Weightlifter

 

What force must their muscles be trained to work against?

gravity

stretching

friction

Those competing in the archery competition had many forces to think about too. Their bows are made of a modern synthetic composite material (a type of plastic) rather than wood. When the archer pulls on the bowstring the bow bends.

 

Modern bow Traditional bow
MODERN BOW TRADITIONAL BOW

 

Which of the following do you think is the most important to archers that the modern bow allows them to do better than the traditional bow?

it transfers more of the stretching force to the arrow

it's stronger and doesn't break as easily

it's a lot lighter and so easier to hold steady

In shooting the bullet has to travel 50m between the rifle and the target.

 

Tick all the forces you think might affect the bullet on its journey:

air resistance

magnetic pull of Earth

gravity

thrust

  • Question 1

At the London 2012 Olympics the Great British cycling team were very successful. Whilst training is tremendously important, understanding forces and how to design equipment with forces in mind is just as important.

 

Look at these two cycling helmets:

 

 Bike helmet Olympic cyclist 
HELMET A HELMET B

 

Why do you think the cycling team chose Helmet B?

CORRECT ANSWER
it's more streamlined
EDDIE SAYS
Whilst comfort and team colours are important, winning is all about shaving 1/100ths of seconds off your time. By cutting down on wind resistance (that's streamlining) those vital fractions of seconds gained can make the difference between gold and silver.
  • Question 2

When they are cycling it's important to try to reduce the forces acting against the bike and rider to a minimum.

 

Which of the following do you think the team designed carefully to maximise speed (tick all you think apply)?

CORRECT ANSWER
wheels
clothing
saddle
EDDIE SAYS
Lights and mudguards aren't important for racing bikes (they're unnecessary weight anyway) but the other factors need to be as streamlined as possible. Solid wheels, smooth clothing and saddle are all part of reducing wind resistance to maximise speed.
  • Question 3

Over in the athletics stadium the runners had to choose what sort of footwear would be best to get the fastest time. Here are their choices:

 

Running spikes Trainers Football boots
A B C

 

 

All the athletes chose shoe A. Why do you think that was?

CORRECT ANSWER
the spikes gave them more grip
EDDIE SAYS
Spikes might seem an odd choice compared to a trainer - they might slow you down. In fact, by gripping the surface better, they allow more of the push generated by the athlete's leg to be transferred into forward motion instead of slipping backwards as a trainer might.
  • Question 4

Moving to the gymnastics arena, the competitors had a lot of forces to think about as well. On the high bar many chose to rub their hands in something just before their turn - what do you think they put on their hands?

 

Gymnast on high bar

CORRECT ANSWER
chalk
EDDIE SAYS
Hanging on to the bar is the key thing: whilst something slippery like butter might seem to help them move more easily it'll mean they slip off the bar too readily. Chalk increases the friction between hands and bar and helps them to stay in contact with the equipment.
  • Question 5

Football also features at the Olympics.

 

Football

 

The goalkeeper always chooses to wear a pair of gloves. What do you think that's for?

CORRECT ANSWER
to grip the ball better
EDDIE SAYS
Whilst all the options might seem sensible, from a scientific and footballing perspective, the ability to hold on to the ball is most important. The surface of the gloves is made of a high-friction material to ensure maximum grip on the ball (ever seen goalkeepers holding a full-size football in one hand? You try without gloves!).
  • Question 6

The Aquatics Centre was a very popular venue.

 

Swimmer

 

It was noticeable that all the competitors wore swimming caps for their race. Why do you think they did?

CORRECT ANSWER
to make their heads more streamlined
EDDIE SAYS
Again maximising speed is vital - a smooth head cuts through the water better (less resistance = more speed) and hair waving around in the water slows the swimmer down.
  • Question 7

The world swimming record for the men's 100m freestyle is just under 47 seconds while Usain Bolt can run the same distance in less than 10 seconds.

 

Why do you think there's such a big difference?

CORRECT ANSWER
water pushes against you with more force than air
EDDIE SAYS
Water's sticky, thick stuff compared to air, so pushing it out of the way in order to move through it needs a lot more force which is why an upright human body (more resistance) in air can beat a lying down, streamlined human body in water.
  • Question 8

In weightlifting the competitor has to lift a bar of weights above their head.

 

Weightlifter

 

What force must their muscles be trained to work against?

CORRECT ANSWER
gravity
EDDIE SAYS
Lifting 250kg against the downward force of gravity needs a great deal of upward force from the muscles; you can see the struggle as the competitor holds it there and how fast they jump out of the way when they drop it!
  • Question 9

Those competing in the archery competition had many forces to think about too. Their bows are made of a modern synthetic composite material (a type of plastic) rather than wood. When the archer pulls on the bowstring the bow bends.

 

Modern bow Traditional bow
MODERN BOW TRADITIONAL BOW

 

Which of the following do you think is the most important to archers that the modern bow allows them to do better than the traditional bow?

CORRECT ANSWER
it transfers more of the stretching force to the arrow
EDDIE SAYS
In fact the modern bow can bend a good deal further than the traditional wooden bow. That means that the massive stretching force it builds up can be transferred to the arrow making it travel further, faster and more accurately. Mind you archers have to spend years building up their muscles to be able to bend their bows enough!
  • Question 10

In shooting the bullet has to travel 50m between the rifle and the target.

 

Tick all the forces you think might affect the bullet on its journey:

CORRECT ANSWER
air resistance
gravity
thrust
EDDIE SAYS
The thrust given to the bullet as the trigger is pulled sends the bullet on its way. It encounters air resistance all the way to the target, slowly falling (due to gravity) as it does so in the same way a ball thrown a long distance travels in a gentle curve (called an arc).
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