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7 Mar

As part of our research into the Winter Olympics and the various sports that are included in the games, we decided we wanted to find out more about bobsledding!

We found out that bobsledding is a team sport, which involves riding on iced tracks in a sled. These modern tracks are made from concrete and are coated with ice. The aim of the race is to reach the finish line in the fastest time possible!

Bobsledding was originally developed in the 1800s in Switzerland. We watched some old videos of the first bobsled (4 man) event in the inaugural Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and were shocked at how dangerous it looked! The two man event first appeared in the Winter Olympics in 1932 and the first women’s event was added in 2002.

After watching some interesting videos and learning some important information regarding how the bobsled works, we decided to try to make our own bobsleds that we could race!

First things first, we needed to plan! With any design and make activity we take part in, we know we have to make a plan first to take into account what we know about the subject and what we’re trying to find out or do. Planning allows us to develop our teamwork and problem solving skills too.

We know the bobsledders rely on gravity to move at the fastest possible pace down the track, with the pilot pulling on rings to steer the sled and improve track position. Bobsleds can reach speeds of 150km/h and the tracks are usually 1,200 – 1,300 long (the brakeman has a very important job!). We also learned that the bobsleds are nowadays made from fibreglass and are designed so as to not allow too much air get trapped in them. Bobsledders also wear full bodysuits to reduce friction and allow for a seamless entry into the bobsled from their running starting position. All of these factors were considered in our designs.

Using toilet roll holders, straws, tape and scissors, we began to design our bobsleds.

An important consideration we had to take into account is what we would use to weigh down the sleds. We needed to do this to take into account that bobsleds have maximum amounts they can weigh in total in order to compete. The heavier the bobsled the faster it will travel downhill.

The maximum weights are as follows:

  • With crew and equipment for a 2-man bobsled is 860 pounds (390 kg). For a 4-man bobsled, the maximum weight with crew and equipment is 1,389 pounds (630 kg).
  • For 2-woman bobsled, the maximum weight with crew and equipment is 750 pounds (340 kg).

Team A chose to weight their bobsled down with dice and Team B chose to weigh their bobsled down with €2 coins (4 in total). It was time to test our designs!

Our testing and results were interesting and best of all, lots of fun! We used school benches to act as the bobsled track and noted that they were positioned at acute angles.

We counted down and 3, 2, 1….race! After 3 races, we noted that the €2 coins were heavier than the 3 dice and so acted as a better weight and made the bobsled travel faster. After we determined this piece of information we decided to make sure both sleds we were weighed down with €8 in €2 coins and raced again 3 times. Again, Team B, who originally chose to race with the coins won. We discussed why this might be?

Our conclusion was that Team B’s bobsled was narrower (the toilet roll had been pushed in so that there was only a small space for any sledders to enter the sled) and this meant not as much air was getting trapped. This appeared to be the thing that was slowing down Team A’s sled. We noted that the sled must be constructed carefully, with enough room to allow sledders to jump in while running at top speeds and not too big that would allow air to be trapped, thus slowing down the travel time and speed. We also found it very interesting to learn that whatever speed the sledders initially push the sled at, determines how fast the team will travel!

We loved learning about the Winter Olympics and specifically the bobsled event. We celebrated everything we learned by decorating our classroom door and watching the famous film ‘Cool Runnings’! We really enjoyed it and loved that we knew how the sled worked while watching 😁

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