Using Dominoes to Teach Physics and Engineering

A domino is a gaming piece, like playing cards or dice. Each piece has a line or ridge dividing its face into two square ends, with one end bearing an arrangement of dots (also known as “pips”) and the other blank or identically patterned. A set of domino pieces, also called a deck or pack, is sometimes referred to as a “domino deck,” while the corresponding game pieces are often referred to as “pieces.”

Dominoes have a number of uses in education, and their unique physical nature lends itself to lessons about physics. For example, a domino’s patterned surface can help students understand the commutative property of addition. To demonstrate this principle, a teacher could ask the class to place a domino on the table with the number of spots on it reversed. Since the number of dots remains the same, this demonstrates that adding a number to its complement can be done in any order.

As the first domino falls, it releases energy, converting from potential energy to kinetic energy. This kinetic energy travels to the next domino, giving it the extra push needed to fall over, and so on until all of the dominoes have fallen. This is an excellent example of the law of conservation of energy, which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

When Hevesh first started making domino constructions at age 10, she didn’t think of herself as an artist. But as she became more proficient in her work, she began posting videos online about her creations and quickly accumulated a following. Today, she’s a professional domino artist who has created spectacular displays for movies, TV shows, and events. She has even helped set a Guinness record for the most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement.

To create her mind-blowing setups, Hevesh follows a version of the engineering-design process. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of the piece she’s building. This allows her to brainstorm ideas for images or words she might want to use in the design.

In the past, domino sets were made of a variety of natural materials, including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory, and dark hardwoods such as ebony. More recently, domino sets have been produced from plastics such as ABS and polystyrene, Bakelite and other phenolic resins, and a number of other synthetic materials. A few sets are still made from natural materials, as they offer a more traditional look and feel, and can often be more expensive than modern synthetic sets.

In the early days of Domino’s, Monaghan grew the company by focusing on getting their stores into the right locations. This allowed them to attract the college-aged crowd that they were targeting, and it helped them become a national franchise. In the 1990s, when Domino’s CEO Steve Doyle took over, he kept this philosophy in mind, and focused on listening to employees and customers. This has led to a number of changes such as a relaxed dress code, leadership training programs, and a new college recruiting system.