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Skaters join forces with physics at Rad Science: Skatepark Physics

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What does it take to pull off a mid-air 900 on a skateboard? Which surface makes for the best ride? What does science have to do with any of it?

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 5, you can jump into the physics behind extreme sports as Indianapolis plays host to the immensely popular, vividly imagined blockbuster exhibition Rad Science: Skatepark Physics.

Set in a realistic skate park scene, Rad Science’s highly interactive elements introduce museum visitors to physics principles typically reserved for the classroom: gravity, force, velocity, acceleration, inertia and balance. It breaks down the science of tricks and turns, inspiring visitors to consider a different side of sports—how working with physics can impact technique and ultimately enhance athletic performance.

“We are excited to host this STEM-based exhibition, which has a strong multigenerational appeal,” said Traci Cromwell, director of collections. “This exhibit does a great job of connecting science concepts to the everyday exploration of skateboarding in ways that invite examination, discovery and hands-on learning.”

Rad Science helps visitors imagine themselves as skateboarders, extreme athletes and scientists as they explore more than 25 interactive experiences, including:

  •  Bodacious Board Balance: Ride stationary skateboards designed to test your balance in classic tricks like “grinding” and “manuals” on the safety of a padded surface.
  •  Friction Hill: Experiment with different skate-able surfaces to see what provides the best ride.
  •  Newton’s Pool: Go inside an empty swimming pool to experiment with the laws of motion and see how a pool’s unique characteristics resulted in the origin of extreme skateboarding.
  •  History Bowl: See skateboard designs from early prototypes in 1962 through the tricked out boards of today and learn how physics has driven the evolution of decks, wheels and axles.
  •  Vert Theatre – View exciting footage of rad skateboard tricks overlaid with the physics principles that make them possible.
  •  Wipeout Ambulance: See how inventions like helmets, kneepads and wrist guards have helped dissipate the extreme forces of a wipeout.

“Purdue University is proud to partner with the Indiana State Museum on this effort,” said Dr. Debasish (Deba) Dutta, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Purdue University. “We believe in the museum’s mission and support their efforts to host meaningful STEM-based public programs.”


The exhibition is sponsored by Purdue University.


The Indiana State Museum is located at 650 W. Washington Street in Indianapolis. Exhibition gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The first Tuesday of each month (Community Tuesdays) admission is half price. Auxiliary aids and services are available with advance notice. For more information, call the museum at 317.232.1637.

For ticket information, please visit indianamuseum.org.

A special press preview is set for Wednesday, Sept. 2 from 10 to 11 a.m. Any interested members of the press should RSVP to Bruce Williams at bwilliams@indianamuseum.org or 317.234.8146.

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