How to Make a Newton Scooter


A toy called a "Newton's scooter" is propelled by the principle behind Newton's third law of motion. The principle is that, for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that an object pushed off the scooter itself pushes back on the scooter with the same force. The scooter is thus propelled forward. Newton's scooter also goes by the name "Newton's car." See the Resources section below for links to video demonstrations.

Things You'll Need

  • Inflexible straws or round pencils
  • Rubber band
  • String
  • Block of wood, about 5x10x1 inches
  • Wood plane
  • Matches or scissors
  • Plastic 35mm film container
  • 3 wood screws or nails
  • Screwdriver or hammer
  • Coins or lead shot
  • Plane the front lower edge of the wood block (one of the 5-inch edges), so the lip clears the track of straws or pencils you'll make.

  • Drill (hammer) two of the screws (nails) vertically into the two back corners of the scooter.

  • Drill (hammer) the third screw (nail) at the front of the scooter, centered between the two front corners---again, standing vertically like the first two. The three screws (nails) should now make a symmetrical (equilateral) triangle.

  • Wrap the rubber band around the two rear screws/nails. Pull both sides of its loop up toward the front of the scooter. The rubber band will be V-shaped.

  • Tie the rubber band to the front screw/nail with a loop of string.

  • Set a plastic 35mm film container, weighted with the lead shot or coins, inside the bottom of the V-shape of the rubbery band. Cap the film container so that the coins or shot don't fly everywhere when the container is released.

  • Set up a track of parallel straws or pencils. The scooter will roll over them. Place the scooter on the track lengthwise, i.e., with the 10-inch side perpendicular to the straws (pencils).

  • Sever the string loop by cutting or burning it. This will release the rubber band, and the scooter will both eject the film container and push off it. Both phenomena happen because of Newton's third law. The scooter pushes on the container as much as the container pushes on the scooter, so the more the container was weighted, the farther the scooter will launch forward.

Tips & Warnings

  • Center the rubber band vertically on the center of mass of the container. Otherwise the scooter won't be able to push off it as hard as it could.


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