Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Created through the collaboration of the Fondazione Ducati and the Liceo Malpighi (Malpighi High School) in Bologna, Fisica in Moto is an innovative educational physics laboratory for Italian middle and high school students

The project is a result of the success of two very different disciplines. The first is that of the Malpighi High School, which is focused on the education of middle and high school students. The second is Ducati, a leading Italian motorcycle manufacturer and symbol of excellence on the racetrack.

The laboratory covers an area of 400 square metres and 80 people have worked on setting the project up. 15 machines have been built specifically for Fisica in Moto, based on 90 project proposals submitted by 15 different Italian universities.

Underlining the value of this innovative project, agreements with both the Ministry of Education and the Emilia Romagna Region have been reached. In addition, five university thesis have been written on the project. One Management Engineering, one Electronic Engineering, two Mechanical Engineering and one Economics. A strong partnership with the Mechanical Engineering and Physics faculties of the universities of Bologna, Florence, Perugia and Modena-Reggio Emilia further endorse the initiative.

In the preliminary phase of the project students from middle and high schools were asked to brainstorm links between the concepts of ’school’, ’factory’ and ’museum’. The results were inspirational.


Students view school as a closed system where theoretical learning is completely detached from practical functionality. School teaching absolutely necessary, but it has become increasingly necessary to integrate external experiences which help students to familiarise themselves with the subject matter.


Create, build, practical, technology, machines, workers. In the minds of the students, the factory does not appear to have any link with what they are studying. And, to an extent, it’s true because even the factory is a world in itself complete with its own rules: ‘entry strictly prohibited except to workers’.

Science museum

Play, touch, build and experiment in fun ways. A world of scientific fun and games in which a huge and diverse range of experiments leaves students with a sense of ‘play’ which is detached from the school environment and even further removed from the work place.

Fisica in Moto has been created from the observation of reactions, desires and behaviour of students. It is the first interactive, didactic laboratory created inside an motorcycle manufacturing company and dedicated to middle and high school students.

The purpose of the unique laboratory is to build a bridge between school and business through the experience of science and technology.

With specially designed interactive equipment, it is possible to actually perform experiments linking the principals of physics studied at school with the design of a Ducati MotoGP motorcycle.


To effectively learn, students must be passionate about what is in front of them. It is the ‘amazement’ factor of their study which makes learning possible. For this reason, more so than engineering, physics, and motorcycles, it is the person that is more important.

Using interactive, fun machinery students are therefore invited to experiment, question and, discover just how fascinating and tangible the formulas of physics are. Formulas which otherwise would normally remain mundanely printed in a text book.

To achieve this, the laboratory, which is located inside the Ducati factory to emphasize the link between theory and practice, is structured in three rooms. A special Ducati workshop, called ‘the physics workshop”, an innovative scientific laboratory called ‘the characteristics of the principles of physics” and the Ducati Corse room called ‘the MotoGP of physics”, where students challenge each other in a real Physics MotoGP.


The first room reproduces the characteristic atmosphere of a Ducati Service workshop. Inside, there are five interactive stations that use a simple and intuitive method to introduce the basic concepts of physics such as friction, collision, elastic force and moment of force.

The fundamental objective of this first room is to stimulate curiosity and questions. The intention is not to provide preconceived answers, but rather help students discover, through experience and observation, explanations of the various phenomena that occur.

The work stations:

1. Keeping momentum
The first work station is entirely dedicated to momentum. It consists of various experiments such as the dynamometric key, where wrenches of various lengths are used. The arm strength remains the same but using different length wrenches we obtain different results. In the end, even to the point of shearing the bolt.

2. Engine assembly line
I ragazzi utilizzando un’avvitatore pneumatico, come quelli presenti lungo la linea di montaggio, devono avvitare una frizione “a secco” Ducati sul carter motore e osservare le forze in gioco. Cosa accade? Quali forze agiscono sulla mano? Lo scopo è di individuare il legame delle forze in gioco con fenomeni simili che si riscontrano nella vita quotidiana.
Using a pneumatic screw driver like those used on an assembly line, students must assemble a Ducati dry clutch onto an engine and see the involved forces. What happens? Which forces is our hand subjected to? The aim is to discover the link between involved forces with phenomena similar to those we see every day.

3. The impact of science
At the third work station students hit a pressure-plate using hammers made of various different materials (steel, rubber, wood etc.). By doing this they analyse the characteristics of each material by visualizing the varying frequencies on a screen.

4. Pit-stop
The wheel of a racing motorcycle turns around a spindle but what helps reduce the amount of friction? How can loss of energy be reduced and the engine’s power used to its full potential? By carrying out a real ‘pit-stop‘, students are introduced to the world of friction.

5. Desmopower
In every Ducati motorcycle a Desmo heart beats, but what exactly IS the Desmodromic system? Which principles of physics are used? What is the difference between this system and the traditional valve system? Six work stations allow students to assemble a Ducati Desmodromic system by themselves.

6. Spring chairs
This last work station consists of two sports car type seats, supported by two different spring shock absorbers. Students sit in the seats and bounce. Incredibly all students reach the same frequency. Is it magic or are they experiencing the laws of physics without reaslising it?


The second room is an innovative scientific laboratory where it is possible to learn more about the characteristics of the principles of physics by using five pieces of equipment that have been custom-designed by Ducati’s engineers and highly qualified suppliers. The difference between mass and weight, experiments on the second and third principles, and the preservation of angular momentum and centrifugal force are the main focuses of this room.

The work stations:

1. Surface without friction
A low-friction surface and cubes made of different materials give us direct experience with the first principle of physics, mass, and the relationship with density and how it differs from weight.
By trying to move the boxes on the granite surface, it is possible to note how mass, force and acceleration interact.

2. Centripetal Track
Is it possible to simply experiment with an ‘invisible‘ force? That is the goal of this station as it helps make centripetal force more easily understood through a remote-controlled machine that moves on a plexiglas track. At this station, students can discover how it is possible to influence this force.

3. Seats of the third principle
A low-friction surface and two sport seats, located inside a ring, make up this station where students are able to experiment with the third principle of physics.

4. Flechter machine
Two small motorcycles are on a surface, towed by two weights. Which one will win the race by changing the factors in play? With the help of stroboscopic photography (Marmug), it is possible to calculate the exact velocity reached.

5. Angular momentum ride
Students can sit on a motorcycle mounted on a beam that rotates around its own axis. The motorcycle can move forward and backwards with an electric motor. Once the ride is manually in motion, students can move along the beam, varying their velocity by using the conservation of angular momentum.


Using the principles observed and assimilated in the previous rooms, students can create a real ‘Physics MotoGP‘, challenging each other on the Fisica in Moto circuit in three amazing interactive stations. Intuitive studying, based on physical concepts such as friction, torque, power, and angular momentum, will help each team acquire the knowledge required to get to the finish line first.

The work stations:

1. Gyroscopic motorcycle
Students climb onboard a real motorcycle mounted to the ground with a special support that allows it to tilt side-to-side. An electric motor, operated by an accelerator, is attached to the front wheel. When the wheel is stopped, the bike cannot be in equilibrium, but when the engine is running, gyroscopic forces come into play. In these moments it is possible to see the rider’s true skills!

2. Kinematic motorcycle
How is the motorcycle’s transmission passed from the engine to the rear wheel? The goal of this station is to answer this question in a fun and simple way. The machine is used in teams – two students operate the pistons while a third changes the gearbox ratios. A display measures the velocity reached and the distance covered, awarding the victory to the team that is not only the strongest, but also employs the best team-work.

3. X-Motorcycle: mutant-motorcycle
A mutant motorcycle, half motorcycle and half bicycle, concludes the physics GP section, introducing students to the concepts of torque and power in an intuitive manner. The students must get on the X-Motorcycle and pedal – a display shows the torque and power output moment by moment and simultaneously creates a graph which presents of the torque and power curves.


After completing the tour of the laboratory’s three rooms, a visit to the Ducati factory is scheduled to give students the opportunity to see first-hand how the principles of physics transform themselves from the work of Ducati technicians and workers, into motorcycles that are admired on streets around the world.


The whole plan, developed with the help of high school teachers, fits perfectly within the physics program at Italian high schools and technical institutes.

Use of the laboratory is free for schools. It is possible to host 60 students per day and around 10,000 per year.

It is possible for professors from middle and high schools to book visits on and choose one of the following types of visit:

• Morning visit: from 9am to 3pm including use of the laboratory, a welcome kit, a guided tour of the Ducati Museum and factory and lunch at the Desmo restaurant together with the Ducati Corse engineers (at a cost of 10€ per person);

• Afternoon visit: from 2pm to 5:30pm including use of the laboratory and a guided tour of the Ducati Museum and factory. Lunch not included.

For more information: –

Fisica in Moto’s Numbers

- Exhibition area of 400 m2

- 80 people actively involved in the realisation of the project

- 15 custom designed and built pieces of equipment

- 5 theses (1 Management Engineering, 1 Electronic Engineering, 2 Mechanical Engineering, 1 Economics)

- 150 participants in the university competition planning ideas for Fisica in Moto

- 90 proposed projects by university students

- 15 involved Italian universities

- 60 students per day

- 10,000 students per year


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