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Coconut Run Physics Fun

Here’s an interesting diversion that Johnson Controls posted on their web site recently… It’s borderline being a game, but it’s a great engineering and physics exercise for both parents and kids.  It unfortunately just killed an hour of time that I should have been working on the mean/median worksheets here. Coconut Run Physics Simulation [Alas, the Coconut Run game appears to be no more… If someone has a new link, please leave a comment!] The object of the game is to build a small powered cart that moves coconuts across a primitive obstacle coarse. It appears to be a fairly accurate physics simulation, which makes for some very interesting tinkering. It’s too bad they didn’t provide a few more hints for design, but here are a few shortcuts…

  • Coconuts shifting their mass around in the cart is bad. If your cart captures the coconuts so they don’t bounce around, the cart will be much more stable.
  • A low/wide center of gravity helps prevent your cart from tipping over.  Try to collect the coconuts near the bottom of your design.
  • More parts means more mass which means poor acceleration.
  • Smaller wheels tend to get stuck in things, but bigger wheels tend to add mass.
  • You can actually make your cart quite wide by drawing parts out across where the tool palette is placed on the screen. This will let you put a long forward arm with a wheel on it to help prevent the cart from tipping. I managed a 63% efficiency score [UPDATE:89%!!] by moving all 15 coconuts to the end in just under a minute. Time invested purely in the name of research, obviously. Enjoy!