Arcade Physics

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After our trip to the bowling alley, we continued our physics lesson with a trip to the arcade! If your kids love games, grab this worksheet and read on for another fun lesson in physics!

Ski-Ball Physics!


Just like we did in the bowling alley, we found opportunities to play with the force formula at the arcade. Remember:

Force = Mass x Acceleration

The bowling alley offers more opportunities to play with the mass piece, since the balls for arcade games tend to be standard sizes. But there are lots of ways to play with acceleration!

Acceleration is the change in velocity (speed and direction) over time

Try throwing your ski-ball at different speeds. Bounce it off the side and see what happens. See how slowly you can release a pin ball, and how that impacts the game.


Remember in my bowling post when I said you can’t get in there and measure the trajectory angle? Well fortunately arcades offer a little more flexibility! Get yourself a tool to measure angles, and get in there! Find the best trajectory for different games.

But What if We Can’t Get to an Arcade?

You can build your own pin ball machine! You will need:

  • A shallow, rectangular box (soda can packs and cereal boxes with one side removed work great)
  • Two craft sticks
  • Rubber bands
  • Craft supplies (we like repurposed trash!) to create any desired obstacles. Dixie cups and toilet paper rolls work great!
  • A large marble or similarly sized ball
  • Markers for decoration
Home made pin ball!

Cut the box as necessary to make a shallow rectangle. Cut slots about an inch and a half from the bottom for the craft sticks. Place rubber bands around the craft stick, like this:

Insert them in the box so there is just enough room for your ball to fit between the inside ends, and your fingers can press down on the outside ends. Then place another rubber band on each stick so that there is one rubber band on either side of the slot, holding the stick in place. You should be able to move them like pin ball flippers by pressing down on the ends outside the box.

Create whatever decorations, obstacles, and points goals you like inside. Get creative! Then drop your marble in and play!

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