Dirtmeister's Science Reporters

Investigate and Report on Friction
How does the force of friction affect us in our daily lives? Let's find out together!
Greetings Science Snoopers! While many forces come to play in our daily lives, friction (also known as the BIG RUB) shows up in many unusual places. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it hurts, but no matter which way you cut it, friction is all around you! Your mission is to investigate one way that friction works either for or against you as you go about your day, and then write about it. Let's begin by investigating the facts.



1. Investigate the Facts
Friction is all around us. Like gravity, friction is a force. More often than not, when people hear the word friction, they think about things rubbing together, and that's exactly what friction is: THE BIG RUB!

Whenever two things rub together, some of the energy they have is lost to friction. Basically, in things like car engines, the wheels of your skates, and the chain of your bike, friction is a force that slows you down. In order to overcome friction, you have to work harder. However, the energy doesn't just disappear ó it's turned into heat! Try rubbing your hands together as fast as you can. Pretty soon, they'll be burning up!

As it turns out, the rougher two surfaces are, the more friction there is between them when they rub together. By making things really smooth, or by adding lubricants like grease and oil, engineers work hard to reduce friction and in the long run, save energy.

Friction isn't always bad though. If you've ever tried to start running on a wet floor, you know that too little friction can just make you slip and slide. You need a certain amount of friction to get a grip in order to get yourself going. That's why winter car tires usually have deeper treads than regular tires. The extra grooves make the surface rougher and help them get a grip on ice and snow. Ever wonder why sneakers always have treads on the bottom? They're there to give you some extra grip when you run and play.

Now that we've got you thinking about the force that makes you grip and slip, it's time to observe and record. 

Learn more about:
There are many ways that the force of friction works for and against us in the real world. Here are a few examples for you to think about!Space Shuttle
Ice Skates
Hands and Feet


2. Observe & Record
Find and observe one way that FRICTION affects YOU in your daily life. Remember, it should be an example that is in your daily experience, such as riding a bus. Print out this page and answer the questions below. When you're done filling in this form, write your report.
Friction Observation Sheet Your Name: _______________________

1. In what daily instance does friction affect you?

2. What two things are rubbing together?

3. In this particular case, is friction helping to get something done or is it making the work harder? How?

4. What could you do to either increase or decrease the amount of friction?

5. Can you think of another similar case in which friction might work the same way?

3. Report Your Findings
Are you done investigating how friction affects you in your daily life? Before you write your report, you may want to review my notes from Investigate the Facts about friction. Compare your notes with my examples. Are you sure what you found is an example of friction? 
Report Your Findings Your Name: _______________________

1. Which 'friction event' from your daily life did you choose as an example?

Answer the following questions with complete sentences, and combine them into a paragraph.

2. What two things are rubbing together?
3. How is friction either helping or hurting in this case?
4. If the friction is harmful, how can it be reduced? Or, if it's helpful, what can be done to increase the friction?
5. Can you think of a similar case in which friciton will have the same effect?

4. Read Kids' Reports
Kids around the country have investigated and found examples of friction. Check out some examples.
Crystal, Grade 4, NJ

Our shoes and the surface we are walking on are rubbing together. It could be a rug, polished brick, or a floor made of tile. Well, if we are walking on the rug it kind of slows us up. If I want to walk faster, friction makes it harder. Well, I think if I'm walking on a rug there's nothing I can do to reduce friction, but if I'm on a tile floor I can polish it. This will make it great to slide on, wearing only socks!!!! But if I'm barefoot, the polishing will not make that much difference. If I have shoes like sneakers then it will be harder. Our sneakers will sound like cars when they burn rubber. Rollerblading on a rug!!!! you definitely have to work harder!!!

Scrubbing A Plate
Janine, Grade 4, NY

The two things that are rubbing together are the plate and the sponge. In this case, friction helps by removing dirt from the plate. To increase the friction, you get a good sponge with a rough surface. Friction is similar when you are washing a car.

When Writing With A Pencil
Keith D, Grade 3, VA

The tip of your pencil and the paper are rubbing together. Friction is helping you get something done. It rubs off lead particles, which makes your writing or your picture visible. You can decrease the amount of friction by sharpening your pencil. This lessens the amount of one of the two rubbing surfaces. When you write with chalk on a chalk-board, the rough surface rubs off chalk particles making your picture or your writing visible.

When You Write on a Chalkboard
Ms. Christie's Class, Grade 4, NY.

When youíre drawing on the chalkboard, the two things that are rubbing together are the chalk and the chalkboard. Friction is helping you to write. Write harder so there is more friction. Drawing on a piece of paper is a similar case to drawing on a chalkboard.

Brushing your teeth
Ms. Christie's Class, Grade 4, NY.

When you're brushing your teeth, the two things rubbing together are the brush bristles and your teeth. Friction is helpful while brushing. It allows you to clean your teeth. Sometimes the friction is bad because it can hurt your loose tooth when you're brushing it. Also, if you brush too hard, and there's too much friction, it can hurt. To make your teeth cleaner, brush harder or longer. To keep the brushing from hurting, reduce the friction by brushing more gently. Similarly, if you brush your hair, it's good for you. If you brush too hard, it could hurt you. Scrubbing helps clean, but scrubbing too hard can damage an object. Friction can be helpful, but too much can be harmful.