Broom Ball as an Intro to Physics

Thanks to Matt Greenwolfe from North Carolina for having me think about using the bowling ball/broom lab in this way.

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Traditionally modelers have used the bowling ball lab as a introduction to the Balanced Force Model, however in reality this lab has so much more to offer than just balanced forces.  In reality it has EVERYTHING an intro mechanics physics course needs.  Granted we won’t be able to dive into and develop all of the models of physics at play here, but the students will have a sense of them anyways.

I gave my students the following set of “Official Broom Ball Rules” as published by the United States Broom Ball Association (USBBA).  Broom Ball.  Before we started any competition I gave all the students about 20 minutes to practice their techniques.  Once I felt they knew what they were doing we divided into teams of two.  Each team took a timed run through the course.  I found a student to be the official timer, and I was the keeper of any penalty time that needed to be assessed.  I felt the students had a great time playing the game and competing for the pride of being the fastest broom ball team.  Here are the final results:

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After the competition each team discussed questions about the motion of the ball, how to produce that motion, challenges and recommended strategies to succeed.  As a large group these same questions were discussed.  During the course of the discussion I served as recorder of ideas.  I tried to write down as much as possible and attempted to organize all the ideas into 7 big physical models.  Constant Velocity, Acceleration, Balanced Forces, Unbalanced Forces, Circular Motion, Energy, Momentum.

At this point it’s unnecessary that the student understand any of these models fully, but I can see the benefit from having the words at least “out there.”  Sometimes I feel modeling tries to “hide” the terms from students like it’s a big secret, when in reality they already know these terms and its now our job to break them from what they think they know about each one and model the correct way to apply the models in different physical situations.  I was excited to start the year this way, and hopefully it sets the tone for a great year.


  1. Pingback: Broomball! | Hilbert's Hotel

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