Gravity Challenge



Predict, Observe,

Hypothesise, Experiment, 

Interpret, make a movie...



The Gravity Workshop usually follows the Gravity 3D show and if all of the challenges are completed, it is a complete day of integrated activities.


Age : 11 to 14 yrs

Number : Maximum 30 students, in up to 6 teams.

Time : around 5 hours



Funding received from the Science & Technology Facilities Council


3D Show :


Gravity 3D Show : 50 mins



This 3D show starts with a series of virtual experiments that explain the basics of Newtonian Gravity. We then cover the formation of the universe and the part that Gravity, Dark Matter and Dark Energy played, using material from the Institute of Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham. The Final part of the show looks at the Life and Death of Stars. A voting system is used throughout the show to pose questions and capture responses.


Gravity Show information here

3D Show Requirements here


Over 5,000 pupils have already enjoyed this show.




Gravity Challenge : 30 - 40 mins

Roller Coaster Challenge : 75 - 90 mins

Movie Challenge : 90 - 120 mins

Final Presentation : 30 - 40 mins


This workshop is a science based digital media challenge that includes a series of hands-on activities.


Working as teams of 4 or 5 students, they start with some simple experiments that help in understanding gravity and motion. Then, they try an build the fastest roller coaster possible with the kit provided. During these activities, they are using the DV camera as a timing and analysis tool to capture and playback slowly, to help understand what is actually happening. For many of the activities, they are asked to predict what they think will happen, compare this to what actually happened and then interpret their results.


In the Movie Challenge, they create movies to explain what they have learned, using the footage they have already captured and new footage, graphics and animations etc; The final movies are then introduced by each of the teams and shown in Final Presentation.


You will find more detailed information in the Challenge Workbook that can be downloaded here (link will be added again shortly)


Teams are named after scientists, who have made a contribution to our understanding of Gravity and its effects. Teams can also be asked to research their scientist and include this in their movie.


Teams Names : choose 6 from : Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Einstein, Hubble, Higgs, and Hawking


This workshop provides a real context for learning and promotes collaborative working, critical thinking, creativity and cross curricular links. It is essential that the teams plan ahead, share tasks, thoughts and ideas and work well together. Supports the Curriculum for Excellence.




Equipment Required :


Each team should be provided with :


DV Camera

Firewire/USB2 cable as appropriate

iBook/MacBook with iLife and iWork applications

access to additional computers with WWW and iLife and iWork applications


Team Table and chairs


Space Required for Workshops


The 3D show equipment (screen, projectors, etc) does need to remain set up for the duration of the visit.

If space allows, then it is possible that some of the workshop activities could also use the show space.

Please email us with rough sizes of the room and some photos would be helpful, if you intend to use the same room for everything.



Experiments :

Where there are 6 teams, there would usually be the following stations:


1 no Water Drop

1 no Light & Heavy

2 no Ball Lift

2 no Ball Cannon


It can be useful to have an extra Water Drop.


Water Drop :

Required :

Easily cleaned floor surface, that is ok if it gets splashed with a little water.


Space :

We provide a 1.5m dia pool to catch the spillage from the dropping bottle. 2m x 2.5m - 3m probably large enough for each station.


Light & Heavy

Preferred :

This is best in a space/room where light levels can be controlled to some degree, ie; have the lights off, and close blinds. This is to allow the DV camera shutter to remain open for the full 1/25 sec.

A wall that the meter stick can be taped or bluetacked to, can be helpful.


Space :

2m x 2.5m - 3m probably large enough for each station.


Ball Lift

Required :

Privacy, as it is important that other teams can't see how this challenge is solved.


Space :

2m x 2.5m - 3m probably large enough for each station.


Ball Cannon

Preferred :

There will be balls flying through the air, so should be a space where this will not cause a problem.


Space :

As large as possible, the balls will travel around 6-8m through the air.


Roller Coasters :

The roller coaster challenge is after the experiments and can reuse the same spaces.


Required :

A stack of 3 or 4 chairs to be used as the roller coaster starting point.


Space :

As you can see from the gallery, the roller coasters will vary in size and shape, but as a rough guide a space of around 3m x 3m, or longer, would be good for each team.


Where possible, the team table should be close to the teams roller coaster space. The space for this is additional.



Teams :

The class teacher should provide a list of team members. Teams should be either of 4 (best) or 5 students and a maximum of 6 teams. Team names can be chosen from the list of scientists below:


Teams : Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Einstein, Hubble, Higgs, Hawking and Hulse-Taylor  


It might be useful for the team, to have researched their scientist before they come.


Information :

It is useful for us to know in advance what level of iLife, iWorks or movie making experience the class/teams have, ie; None/Some/Experienced. This will allow us to organise "just-in-time" learning sessions if required.


Southern Tour Dates


20 - 24 Oct 08 : Leeds West CLC

15 - 19 Dec 08 : University of Durham

12 - 16 Jan 09 : St Helens CLC

26 -30 Jan 09 : Rawmarsh CLC /Magna

9 - 13 Feb 09 : TechniumCast, Bangor University, North Wales

23 - 27 Feb 09 : North Nottingham eLC




Funding received from the Science & Technology Facilities Council


Workshop Competition : Annual Prize



The top two teams from each day, will be given additional time, with agreement from the CLC/School, to rework their movie and complete an additional task, to compete for the annual prize against the top teams from all the other events.


At this point, prizes would be along the lines of :


For Best Team :

1st : £100 in Amazon Vouchers for CLC/School and either an engraved 2Gb iPod Shuffle or £45 in Amazon Vouchers for each team member.


2nd : £50 in Amazon Vouchers for CLC/School and either an engraved 1Gb iPod Shuffle or £30 in Amazon Vouchers for each team member.


3rd : £25 in Amazon Vouchers for CLC/School and £15 in Amazon Vouchers for each team member.


There will be a Trophy or Certificates for the Fastest Roller Coaster, Most Inventive/Exciting Roller Coaster, Best Documentary Movie and Best Promotional Materials.


We are now trying to raise additional funds to be able to bring the top teams together in a common venue for two days to do the Gravity & Roller Coaster Challenge Grand Final, judge the films and have the prize giving event.

If you are interested in taking part, or can help with a venue, funding or prizes, please do contact us.


Below is the information for you to recreate this challenge yourself : Please note Still Draft


All of the equipment is easily and cheaply obtainable.


Do please let us know, if you use this workshop with your class, as we would like to hear how it goes and would be grateful for any suggestions you may have.


If you have ideas for other experiments or for modifications or extensions to the existing ones, please add them to the other experiments section or the comments.


If you would like to enter your school team for the competition, please contact us to register.


Challenge Workbook :


You can download the challenge work book here :


You need a DV Camera and a Mac or PC with video editing software and cable to connect them.


1)  Water Drop -


     reqd :


2)  Ball lift




3 ) Ball cannon


     reqd :     


We made our ball cannon more robust by using some extra bits from Maplin :


4) Heavy + Light Drop :


  reqd :    


Roller Coaster Challenge Equipment and Software:


Roller Coaster Kit :


Required Per Team



Alternative & Relay :


You can also do the challenge using a software roller coaster, costs much the same per item, but more difficult to do as teams..... However, if your teams are too large, or have uneven numbers, you can do both at the same time as a relay.... with one member of the team working on the software roller coaster, while the others build the kit, and change every 10 or 15 mins... with only a minute of overlap :-)


Software Roller Coasters :


Roller Coaster Tycoon 3

Commercial game around £19


NoLimits Coaster Simulation

Not as easy to use as RCT3, but also fewer restrictions.

Free download and demo, but save disabled. $29.95 for full version : LINK





GravityWorkshop5.pdf1.68 MB