Make your own sports equipment
Do you play or watch a sport where you use a tool to move a ball? Golf, Baseball, Tennis: There are many different sports where players use something other than their feet or hands to move a ball. In this activity, you will design, build and test your own sports equipment using recycled materials.
How many sports can you think of where athletes use something to hit a ball or a puck? Consider the size and shape of this item used in each sport. You will quickly realize that they are all very different. A baseball bat is long and thin, for example, while a tennis racquet is short and wide. Golf clubs and ice hockey sticks have long handles, but the head of a golf club is much smaller than the blade of a hockey stick. What do you think would happen if you tried to play hockey with a tennis racket or baseball with a golf club? It probably wouldn’t go very well!
Now think about the equipment requirements in each sport. They are all used to hit a ball (or puck), apply force, and change the speed or direction of the ball but in very different situations. Golf players hit a small ball that is stationary on the ground, allowing them to do so with precision using a club with a small, heavy head while standing still. They need to hit the ball very far (hundreds of yards), which requires a powerful two-handed blow. Tennis players, on the other hand, need to move quickly when hitting a moving ball back and forth through a net. Sometimes the bullet travels over 100 miles an hour. The wide face of the racquet makes it easier to hit the ball on the move (imagine trying to do this if the racquet was the size of a golf club head) and using one hand allows for more ‘agility.
Now imagine that you want to play a game with your friends, but you don’t have any rackets, clubs or sticks available, so you will have to make your own! But what you need to build will depend on the type of sport you want to play. You will need to use the engineering design process to make your own sports equipment.
- Assorted recyclable materials: plastic bottles, cardboard boxes and tubes, etc.
- Adhesive tape and / or glue
- Pencil and paper
- Lightweight plastic or rubber ball (ping-pong ball, Wiffle ball, etc.). Do not use a heavy ball, such as a baseball
- Open space, such as a large room or a flat area outside
- Equipment (such as chairs and / or a table) that you can use in your game
- Some friends to play with you (optional)
- Decide what âsportâ you want to play and set up an area where you can play it. For example:
- You can play floor hockey by clearing space in the middle of a large room and placing two chairs on either side of the room. The legs of the chairs can form the “goals”.
- > You could play “mini golf” by cutting circular pieces of paper for the “holes” and laying them on the ground, then setting up obstacles to form a golf course.
- > You can play table tennis by using cardboard to make a “net” in the middle of a rectangular table.
- You can also create your own sport or use an imaginary sport, like Quidditch from the Harry Potter series.
- You might be tempted to start building something right away, but engineers need to work more systematically. First you will think about what you need to build and draw sketches.
- Think about the sport you want to play and what the ârealâ equipment looks like for that sport or what you want the equipment to look like for an imaginary sport.
- Make a list of criteria for the equipment. For example, will you hold it with both hands or with one? Will he need to hit a moving ball or a stationary ball? Will the ball be in the air or on the ground?
- Look at the materials you have available. Think about how you could combine or connect them to craft the equipment. What elements could you use for the “handle”? What about the part that hits the ball? Will you need to cut or fold them? How are you going to connect them?
- Draw a sketch of your sports equipment and label the materials you will be using.
- Now is the time to build! Try to build your sports equipment following the drawing in your sketch. You don’t have to stick to your sketch exactly. You might find that things aren’t working out as expected. For example, maybe two pieces don’t fit together like you thought. It’s OK! You can go back “to the drawing board” if you need to make a change.
- When you’re done building, it’s time to test. Try hitting the ball a few times (if necessary, depending on your sport, have a friend throw you or hit the ball). Can you hit the ball with precision? And the distance? Is your device easy to handle? Is it strong or is it too fragile?
- Based on your observations, decide if you need to make any changes or improvements to your device. You might even decide to start over and build a new one. Once again, it’s okay! This process is called “iteration”. Engineers typically go through several iterations before arriving at a final design.
- Once you’ve come to a final design, create more copies of the device so you can play with your friends.
Observations and results
You have probably discovered that you can build a simple device for hitting a light ball. For example, you can make a golf club or hockey stick by gluing tubes of paper towels together to form a handle and a plastic bottle to form the head. Your homemade gym gear, however, probably wasn’t as sturdy as the real thing. Most baseball bats, hockey sticks, etc. are made from a single piece of solid wood or metal. You probably had to use duct tape or glue to connect several pieces together, such as taping several tubes of paper towels together to form a handle. These joints introduce weak points. Cardboard is also much more fragile than solid wood or the heavy-duty materials such as carbon fiber used to make tennis racquets. So while you can have fun playing your game, you probably need to be careful. – your equipment may not have withstood too much abuse.
More to explore
The physics of sport, based on real-world physics problems
She shoots, she scores! How Does Hockey Stick Flex Affect Accuracy and Speed ââ?, by Science Buddies
Golf Clubs, Loft Angle & Distance, from Science Buddies
How high can you build a tower before it collapses ?, from Science Buddies on American scientist
STEM Activities for Kids, from Science Buddies
This activity is offered in partnership with Science Buddies