Slinky: Metal vs. Plastic
Grade Level: 4th - 6th; Type: Physical Science
In this experiment, students will find out whether a plastic slinky works as well as a metal slinky when “walking it down the stairs."
What causes the “walk down the stairs” slinky trick to work?
The slinky has been enjoyed by many children and adults alike for 70 years since its creation by Richard James in the early 1940s. The toy itself is simple, yet kids can learn from it lessons on momentum and physical science.
- Metal slinky
- Plastic slinky of the same size
- Flight of stairs
- Stand at the top of a flight of stairs.
- Get the metal slinky and place one end at the top step of the stairs. Hold the other end slightly up and give it a little push forward onto the next step. Watch as it “walks down”. Time this.
- Do the same with the plastic slinky. Note that this trick may not work on some plastic slinkys, but it is still a part of your results.
- Evaluate your results. Which slinky took longer to walk down? Why?
Terms/Concepts: Slinky; Momentum; Weight; Incline plane
- McGill and King (1995). Engineering Mechanics, An Introduction to Dynamics (3rd ed.). PWS Publishing Company. ISBN 0-534-93399-8.
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.