Icy roads make winter driving dangerous. Ice is slippery, causing cars and trucks to skid out of control. You can safely explore how cars slip on ice by making a model of an icy road and testing out how well the wheels of toy cars grip onto the ice.
What you’ll need: a few toy cars, a shallow pan, permanent marker, and water.
Set up a model icy hill. Fill the pan with water and place it in a freezer (or outside if the temperature is below freezing). When the water has frozen, place the pan on a slight incline and draw a road with the marker. Make sure your road does not follow the incline of the hill otherwise it will be difficult to know when cars are slipping.
Make your own experiment. Perhaps you want to figure out if certain types of toy cars and trucks are more likely to slip. Perhaps you want to compare the types of tires or the size of the vehicles. What makes a toy car more likely to slip? Or you can leave the ice out of the freezer for a few minutes until a thin layer of water forms on top and see if your toy cars are more likely to slip (as Sheldon Drobot explains in this video). Once you know what you’d like to compare, write your hypothesis – a sentence that states what you think will happen.
Test your hypothesis. Once you have your hypothesis written, it’s time to send the cars down the slope to test it out. Remember to perform the experiment a number of times to see if you get the same result.
Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are using weather sensors on snowplows to warn drivers of icy conditions. Find out more from AtmosNews: New Technology Targets Slick Winter Roads
- Explore more science activities about snow and ice: The Winter Weather Teaching Box
- Video blog: Why is ice slippery?