Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time! Cool Runnings!

Simon Porter
19th October 2015 at 17:56

Simon Porter, Subject Genius, Bobsleigh

Since the days of video first appearing in school (I know you’re all thinking how can Simon Porter be so old, he looks so young in his picture) I have always been an enthusiastic user of films as examples in Science lessons. Whether it be the opening sequence of “Moonraker” (1979) to discuss terminal velocity, U571 to discuss pressure and water depth, or season 1 episode 3 of “The Simpsons” where Bart tours Springfield nuclear power station and watches a very accurate film describing the basics of nuclear power.

Of course, smartboards and amazing websites that allow you to download and save Youtube clips have expanded my use, and with it my use of film clips has become more sophisticated, at least as sophisticated as a person from Nottingham can get.

I start by briefly explaining the plot of “Cool Runnings” to my class (yes, believe it or not most have not seen it) and show them the climatic final bobsleigh run where the Jamaican team crash but heroically carry their sleigh over the finish line. I then explain that we are going to try and plot a speed-time graph of the run and see what information we can find from it. Students watch the clip again with stopwatches and note the time of key events in the run, the time the participants jump in the sled, time exiting first bend, time they crash etc. I have supplied them with a table of results that also contains the speed the bobsleigh was going at each of the times (available to download on the links below). I then use a PowerPoint (also available below) to explain how acceleration and distance traveled can be found from speed time graphs. Students come up to the board and sketch what they think constant speed, acceleration will look like. They then plot the speed-time graph and answer questions on a worksheet that asks them to calculate the acceleration at certain points and the total length of the track using the graph, amongst other things.

I’ve found that this is an engaging way to get students to practice what can be a daunting piece of Physics that is often covered at the start of year 10.

I also have to suppress a sentimental middle-aged tear at the end!

Please see the following resources:


Simon Porter supports Nottingham Forest and works for the International schools group Nord Anglia Education.