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Tug of War by Mattie & Sophie

We head to camp every summer. We love to canoe, hike and best of all, play tug o'war. It's a big deal at our camp! But we don't always win. So we decided to use science to figure out a new strategy. We wanted to know: When we form our tug o'war team, should we use a few big kids, or use lots of smaller kids?

What did we do?
We set up a sled filled with sandbags so that it weighed about 500 lbs. Then, we gathered our camp friends, and selected a team of a few bigger kids, and a team of a lot of smaller kids. Both teams weighed about 500 lbs. Each team pulled the heavy sled as fast as possible for about 6 meters (about 20 feet). We recorded the average time for each "run." We also had each team try spreading its members all along the rope, and bunching up in the back of the rope, to see if that made a difference.

What did we find out?
The team of little kids pulled the sled faster than the team of big kids. Then, when they pulled against each other, the big kids won! This had us confused. We decided that there's a difference between pulling a heavy sled and pulling another group of people. We figured that the most important thing was choosing the people with the strongest muscles, no matter if they were big or small. We also found that it didn't help to put all the people at the back of the rope, even though a lot of people usually think that's a good strategy.

What can you do?
  • Does it matter if you pull a tug o'war rope in a standing position, a slightly bent-kneed position, or standing and leaning into the pull? Put each style to the test, see if body position might be a factor in winning tug o'war.
  • Take the opportunity at camp to learn to identify trees by their leaf shape. Read about leaf types at http://mbgnet.mobot.org/sets/temp/lftypes.htm. Use what you learn to identify the leaf characteristics for the trees at camp, or just in your neighborhood.
  • Many summer camps have lots of opportunities to do nature hikes. Whether you hike in the woods, near a lake, or in a grassy field, keep an eye out for the diversity of the wildlife on your hike. Make a journal of what you see.
  • Use this physics investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on mass and weight .

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
Which of the following sports was never part of the Olympic games?

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