Airdate: Nov 25, 2008
Scientist: Paul Schmitt
KSC Skateboard - Violin
Like a fine wine, a skateboard can improve with age. The catch? Don't ride it!
music; ambience skateboard park
Why is a skateboard like a violin? Stay tuned. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
“I’ve been on a constant quest since I was a 14-year-old kid to make a better skateboard, and I still continue that today.”
Paul Schmitt is the founder of CreateAskate.org. He says that when a skateboarder leaps into the air and lands on his board, he’s pounding it with a tremendous amount of force. And boards are built to take the pounding.
“It’s all about being tough enough tough enough to handle all the variables and not break and fracture under the stress and the load involved.”
But like a violin, a newly manufactured skateboard can actually improve with time.
“So, a skateboard actually gets better with age if it has not been ridden, because it’s stabilizing. The glue in it is unifying, and the wood’s getting used to being in that form in that state. You make a skateboard and press it into plywood, and it’syou stress it into this curve in this bent state, and as it becomes acclimated and comfortable with that state, it becomes better. So, there’s a mechanical transformation by doing the bends, but there’s a molecular structural transformation that takes time. So, a skateboard, if you don’t ride it, it gets better with age, but if you ride it, you’re breaking it every time you ride it. If you look at it under a microscope, it looks like a sponge, and there’s little pores and tubes, and every time you break a tube, you fracture it. So, a skateboard loses what they call pop, and that’s the responsiveness. A new board or a board with really good pop will really respond well. Without much pop, it will not respond well. You know, we design and engineer the skateboard to try to preserve that pop the best we possibly can.”
We’ll learn more about the science of skateboards in future programs. In our latest project, kids get to dream up their own ideas for scientists and engineers like Paul Schmitt to solve. Check out kidsciencechallengecom. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.