A popular trend, called “the bottle flip” raged through middle schools in the past year. In this challenge, students hold a water bottle by the lid, throw it so that it spins in the air, and (hopefully) lands upright on a nearby table or section of floor.
Taking this fad in stride, Cal Poly SWE created a presentation for our Feb. 23rd visit to the 4-H after school program that involved the physics of bottle-flipping and the steps of experimental. The physics concepts covered included angular momentum and center of mass. In the hands-on portion of the activity, students worked through an experiment to determine the water level and the water bottle shape that resulted in the best bottle flip. As a bonus challenge, the students tried to hit targets on the floor for points. By learning about bottle flipping, the students are now able to understand a viral trend that they will think about every time they partake.