Nerf toys can be used for more than Nerf Wars in the backyard. If you have school-aged children, Nerf blasters can be a powerful teaching tool and are definitely more engaging than a textbook. Science projects help kids develop resourcefulness, goal-setting, planning, and problem-solving. If your child is a budding Nerf enthusiast or a full-blown addict, this classic Nerf science experiment is great way to pique their interest in physics and encourage them to look at their hobby in a new light.
Science Experiment: How Fast Is a Nerf Dart?
Like a professional pitcher clocking his speed, your child can determine just how fast their Nerf dart (or any other Nerf projectile) travels. They can use this experiment to put their Nerf blasters to the test and determine which have the fastest shot with the fastest dart, informing their Nerf blaster choice before their next Nerf War.
- Nerf blaster
- Nerf darts
- Meter stick + clamp to hold the stick up
- Video recording device / smartphone
- Tripod / something to steady the phone or camera with
Set up your meter stick, propped up horizontally against a plain background (either solid white or shot in front of a dark sheet sheet or towel that is hung flat). Set up your tripod and camera in front of the stick so that the shot captures the entire setup.
Press play to record in slow motion, shot at 240 frames per second. One at a time, shoot several darts straight, horizontally across the meter stick. You are going to use the speed of each frame combined with the distance indicated on the meter stick to determine the relative speed of the dart.
Review the video going frame by frame and measure the distance of the dart for five frames. Do this for each shot fired to get an average distance. Record your numbers.
- Speed = distance/time
- 240 frames per second
- 5 frames happen in 0.0167 seconds
Because Nerf darts are made of foam, the air slows them down while they are in motion. This means that they move faster in the beginning and slow down as they reach their destination at the end. This factor will put the average speed somewhere in the middle of the total distance traveled.
In our test run, the type of blaster and dart you use makes a huge difference in the results. The average distance the dart flew in five frames of slow motion video was 27cm or 0.27m. Five frames occur in 0.0167 seconds. Since speed = distance/time:
Speed = 0.27m / 0.0167s
Speed = 16m/s
This translates to roughly 35 miles per hour! Pretty fast for a little foam dart. We’ll let you figure it out, but depending on the type of Nerf blaster we used with the same darts, the speed varied in difference as much as 11 miles per hour. This is good information to know for your next Nerf War. Now the next time Hasbro claims to have created a faster Nerf blaster or a faster Nerf dart, your kids will be able to see if the blaster lives up to the marketing!