Shannon Blakely, one of the founding members of Woodlawn School’s STEAMfest team, and mother of a Woodlawn 9th grader, shared with us her motivation and inspiration for her Newton’s Cradle booth at STEAMfest 2020.
What inspired you to make a Newton’s Cradle for STEAMfest?
As a child, my parents owned a strange contraption and it fascinated me. This contraption was called a Newton’s Cradle.
Can you describe what it was that fascinated you about this “Newton’s Cradle”?
Yes! Five metal balls hung from some strings in a straight line. When you lifted one ball on one end and let it go, the ball on the opposite end was propelled into the air. The 3 balls in the middle remained motionless. Magic, I thought as a child! I was always trying to trick the machine. The release of 2 balls together caused the 2 balls on the opposite side to act similarly, but, being precocious, I thought maybe I could trick this magical machine. When I tried pulling 3 or 4 balls back and released them, that’s when I remember getting really excited. What’s it going to do now, I thought to myself? Well, to my surprise, letting 3 balls go, caused the ball in the middle to switch sides. It joined the 2 balls on the other side and flew out with them, then switched back and forth until the momentum waned. With 4 balls released, the 3 balls in the center switched sides. Crazy! Unimaginable! Blew me away! Why did this wonderful thing act like that? Was it magic or was there some reason?
So, that is what inspired you to build a “Newton’s Cradle” for STEAMfest 2020?
Yes! It fascinated my young self so I figured it would be fun to see what other children thought. I hoped others would play with it and it would inspire them to go learn more.
What would you say to others interested in becoming STEAMfest Creators?
Go for it! It’s fun! It is fun to learn new things and share them with others. You don’t have to be an expert, but you can inspire others. Choose a topic that you’re interested in and dive in. It may seem a bit intimidating at first, but you’ll quickly get drawn in and have more fun than you thought possible. It’s also a great way to get the whole family involved in a project.
Will you have a Newton’s Cradle activity for STEAMfest 2021?
Yes, I will have a Newton’s Cradle activity for STEAMfest 2021. You can search for it on STEAMfest’s Activity page.
Special thanks from the STEAMfest Team to Shannon Blakely for sharing in this article and for many years of volunteer service in STEAM programs at Woodlawn School!