Direct Measurement Videos > Activities > Person Sliding on Ice - Student Activity

Person Sliding on Ice - Student Activity

Matt Vonk, University of Wisconsin River Falls
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This activity guides students through the process of analyzing the motion of a person as he moves across an ice rink and then rapidly decelerates as he slides across the ice. In addition to one dimensional kinematics, the worksheet prompts students to consider both the frictional force and measurement uncertainty.

Learning Goals

Students will:
  • Carefully observe a video
  • Measure the displacement of the person at certain times
  • Calculate the initial, final, and average velocity of the person
  • Calculate the average acceleration of the man
  • Calculate the uncertainty in their measurements
  • Consider the origin and direction of the frictional force on the person

Context for Use

I use this activity with my students at the beginning of the unit on forces as a way to re-emphasize 1D kinematics but at the same time to get them thinking about forces, friction, and measurement uncertainty. Although it's quite highly scaffolded (giving the students quite detailed instructions) the instructor may need to offer additional information about forces and friction and uncertainty if the students haven't seen them before.

The instructions don't prompt the students to make graphs of the motion, but instructors may want to have them do it anyway. If students don't make graphs the activity takes about an hour to complete. If graphs are made, an additional half hour is required.

Description and Teaching Materials

Video files: Car or person sliding across an ice rink
Student video library - allows access to all videos for students, without links to instructor materials.

Here is a worksheet (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.2MB Aug30 14) to guide students through this activity, and worksheet solutions (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.4MB Aug30 14) for instructors.

These instructions are highly scaffolded, giving students step-by-step instructions. An instructor may chose to provide less detailed instructions to encourage independent thinking and problem solving.

Teaching Notes and Tips

I use this activity after the very similar Car Sliding on Ice activity. I like doing this one after the car because in the car video the two different methods for calculating the average velocity of the object during the braking/sliding period agree within the uncertainty, while in this activity they don't. I think it's useful for students to see the more typical case (the car) first and the more unusual case second (the person sliding).

The instructions don't prompt students to graph the motion, but the instructor may want to have them do it if there is time.

When I made my measurements I tried to be as accurate as possible and estimated my uncertainty to be about 5 cm of displacement and 1 frame of time. The uncertainty in the measurements of some students may be larger.


This activity could be used as the assessment for the skills gained while students worked through the very similar Car Sliding on Ice activity.

References and Resources

Here is a link to the Hockey Physics page

Here is a journal article on The Kinetic Friction of Ice