PHYSICS - or - How do wheelchairs work?
The goal is for students to apply the basic principles of work, energy,
momentum and center of gravity. These basic principles are usually taught
using machine images. We have translated them into more gender-friendly
examples. We teach these principles and then ask the students to use
this knowledge to predict the behavior of different people using different
wheelchairs in different environments.
activity, students are given three body
variables (a man, a woman, and an person without legs (gender ambiguous);
four wheelchair variables (front wheel large, front wheel small, back
wheel forward position, back wheel back position); and three environments
(a bumpy flat surface, up a hill, down a hill). Resource
links are provided so that students can continue learning factual
information and to read interviews of people of scientists with disabilities
and people who use wheeled mobility devices. (Skip to Physics
SOME NOTABLE PEOPLE
Ralf Hotchkiss - Engineer/Founder of Whirlwind
Kullers - physicist
Talamantes - Latina Scientist
Hawking, Physicist with ALS
BEFORE USING THE PHYSICS MODULE
- Ask students to think about a modern wheelchair. How are its properties
similar or different from other forms of self-propelled wheeled
mobility (i.e. bicycles, strollers, etc)?
Ask students to think about designing a simple wheelchair for a
child. What are the physics principles that they would need to know
in order to accomplish this? How would they figure out the design
AFTER USING THE PHYSICS MODULE
- Have students write about the how their assumptions about wheeled
mobility changed after doing the EDGE physics module.
- Have students create design specifications for a modern wheelchair.
Then have them interview people who use wheelchairs. Have them assess
their specifications against real-life user perceptions of what
is useful in a wheelchair design.
LESSON PLAN AND CONTENT
Work, Energy, Momentum and Center of
Gravity are the four main curriculum areas. Although these are usually
taught using machines as a base, we have adapted these basic concepts
to use human bodies as the base. We help students to explore the ideas
of how a body does "work", uses energy and how momentum and the center
of gravity intersect with a person using a wheelchair.
There are three activities that allow
students to test wheelchair design in different situations: on a flat
surface, uphill, and downhill. Each situation requires a different strategy
based on energy, momentum and center of gravity. The students are given
three sets of variables: a large or small front wheel; placing the back
wheel in a more forward or more backward position; and whether to use
a 140 lb woman, a 180 lb man, or a 140 lb double leg amputee (gender
advantages and disadvantages of each variable are explained on the opening
page of the activity section. Students then make their choices and get
immediate feedback about the results of their choices.
In the Self-Test students are able to
assess the level of their understanding of both the lesson and the accompanying
activities. In seven multiple choice questions students get immediate
feedback on their answers.
Highlighted in this lesson are physicists
and other scientists who have disabilities and are making (or have
made) important contributions to the field. Included are Stephen Hawking,
Albert Einstein, and Ralf Hotchkiss who designs wheelchair for people
in developing countries.
for further learning
Links are provided to other websites
that offer further knowledge about the principles presented in the lesson
as well as other applications of energy and momentum, such as amusement
- Part 5.2 - Biology