Now’s your chance to design the greatest ever water slide! How will it work? How high up is it? How thrilling can you make it? Watch the video for inspiration on some of the world’s most amazing water slides. For further inquiry, dig a little deeper into the physics of water slides and learn about gravity and friction in the experiment below.
Explore the physics behind how a water slide works – It’s all about GRAVITY!
How water slides work
The water slide is like a wet roller coaster but it doesn’t have a fitted seat or a safety harness. It works the same way as a roller coaster, relying on the force of gravity to build momentum (speed building up as gravity pulls the rider towards the ground). Whether you’re on a mat, a raft or your bare skin, you’re at the mercy of gravity as you make your way down, and sometimes up, the slippery slope.
It takes a lot of engineering know-how to keep you from flying off the slide and into the air, and to keep that momentum going so as not to stop on an incline.
This is what pulls you down! On a slide you have potential energy from your position at the top and your potential to be pulled down. It depends on gravity, your mass (plus the mass of water with you), and the height of the slide.
Test it out!
What you’ll need:
- Something flat and solid like cardboard or folder (see below)
- A piece of string approx 60cms long
- A ball
- Aim is to use gravity and the board angle to get the ball closest to the end of the string.
- Adjust the board’s height and angle and test away. What differences do these adjustments make?
- Try using a different ball, heavier or lighter. Did this change the outcome?
Think about friction. What happens to the ball when it leaves the ramp and moves onto the carpet? How does this change the momentum of the ball?