Kids' Science Challenge: Lindsay - Marbles: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Aug 24, 2009
Scientist: Paul Schmitt

Kids' Science Challenge: Lindsay - Marbles

Kids' Science Challenge: Lindsay - Marbles
Silly ideas? No such thing, says skateboard engineer Paul Schmitt.


music; ambience

LC: “We were talking in the car going to a basketball game, and most of our ideas were kind of silly.
PS: “There’s no idea that’s silly okay? Today’s gonna be all about silly, it’s about making ideas come to life. I think silly’s a great thing!

Well, if necessity is the mother of invention, then silly ideas just might be the offbeat uncle. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Fifth-grader Lindsay Carnes came up with some out-of-the-box ideas for skateboards, and she submitted them to the Kids’ Science Challenge, our nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th graders. Skateboard engineers Paul Schmitt and Michael Bream met with Lindsay to test a few of her concepts, one of which involved replacing a skateboard’s wheels with balls of various sizes.

PS: “You got this idea of marbles here, so I got this bag of marbles right here”

[sfx: marbles dropping on table and rolling around]

PS: “Now how are you going to control that?
LC: “You can’t.”
PS: “Yeah, you really can’t, can you. It’s a pretty hard one to control. Now look, they keep on moving, what force is that doing that?”
LC: “Gravity.”
PS: “Yeah. So that one, I don’t think we’re going to make the marble idea work, because we just can’t seem to control those things, they’ve got a mind of their own, huh.”
LC: “Okay.”
PS: “You know, I really like this idea, you talk about different balls, you talk about 2 or 3 big balls?”
LC: “Yes.”
PS: “And in here you talk about the Dyson vacuum cleaner. We’re going to explore that idea and see what we can do to make it work.”

Lindsay’s inspiration came from watching a Dyson vacuum commercial which extolled the maneuverability of a turning ball. Dyson’s engineers actually sent our team some parts, and then they were ready to give the idea a try.

PS: What does this Dyson ball skateboard want to be like?
LC: Have three points, maybe?
PS: Yeah, three points is a good idea. So maybe we put the skateboard trucks do you think the ball should be in the front or in the back?
LC: The front?

[conversation continues]

To see how Lindsay’s board turned out, check out

Pulse of the Planet’s Kids’ Science Challenge is made possible by the National Science Foundation.