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Week 1

Week 1
January 25th & 27th
Chemistry Introduction

Skate Science

Our second week of classes and first week of skate science, we discussed a little more about chemistry and chemical changes.

Chemistry is the science of how different materials and substances interact with each other.  When you think of skateboarding, you may not think of chemistry, but everything from the wheels to the grip tape to the trucks and event the concrete you skate on all are made through chemistry.

This week we went over the basic parts of a skateboard then did a fun chemistry experiment.

There are two types of changes in chemistry: physical changes and chemical changes. 

In a physical change, the form of matter is changed, while its chemical identity remains the same.

  • Think about cutting a piece of paper into bits. It’s still paper, just in smaller pieces. Physical changes are also reversible. You could tape the paper back together! Other examples of physical changes include boiling, melting, freezing, dissolving, and mixing.


In a chemical change, the chemical reaction occurs. The chemical reaction changes the chemical identity of the matter, and new products are formed that you can’t easily reverse.

  • Think of a campfire. The fire takes a log and creates ash and smoke, two chemically-distinct products.

There are 5 signs that a chemical reaction has occurred. They’re easy to remember with a funny acronym F.A.R.T.S.

Fizzes: Did the reaction produce bubbles or gas?

Aroma: Did the reaction produce a smell?

Re-color: Did the reaction produce a new color?

Temperature: Did the reaction produce a temperature change or release light?

New Substance: Did the reaction produce a new substance?

Week 1

This week we made ice cream as a fun intro lab. When making ice cream, you’re using physical and chemical changes. When you shake your bag, you’re freezing the milk, which means the water in it is turning from a liquid (water) into a solid (ice). This is also a physical change!


We still see lots of physical and chemical changes in the kitchen. Which ones can you think of?

Materials: Rock Salt, Ice, Half & Half or Oat Milk, Ice Cream Flavoring, Gallon Zip Lock, Quart Zip Lock

Week 1 Lab


Homework Week 1

This week's homework is to create a video or poster showing the different aspects of chemistry in skateboarding. Do a little research into the materials used.

Email us both of these items by Monday, January 30th and you will get a coupon to pick one item from the Surf Skate Science Treasure Chest.

Class Calendar
Class Syllabus

Week 2
February 8th & 10th
Urethane and Polymers

Week 2

In the early 1900's, the first skateboards were born when kids took roller skate wheels and nailed them to a two-by-four.. Those early wheels were usually steel, which offered a very rough ride. They had  little or no traction, and since skateboarding trucks had not been invented,  you could only roll straight forward or straight backward.


Skateboard wheels have gone through a dramatic change since then. In the late 1950's, the first commercial skateboards started to appear taking direction from the roller skate industry. By the 1960's, advances in roller skates led to the appearance of clay wheels. These were better than metal wheels, but not much.

In 1970 a company called Creative Urethane was experimenting with a new type of roller skate wheel. The first few batches were too slippery for roller skates so they sat in the factory, unused in big bags. A young skater, Frank Nasworthy, was a family friend of the owners of the factory. He visited and saw the old wheels and thought they would be perfect for skateboarding. 

The owner gave Nasworthy some to test out. He and his friends tried them smoothness and stability. In 1973 Nasworthy launched the first urethane wheel company called Cadillac Wheels. 

Week 2
February 8 & 10

Urethane & Polymers




Taken from a roller skate and nailed on a piece of wood



Clay roller-skate wheels were adapted for use on the 1st commercially produced skateboards called 'sidewalk surfers'



A factory called Creative Urethanes were working on a new type of roller skate wheel in North Carolina in 1970. They seemed too slipper for roller skates but when a skater, Frank Nasworthy stopped in he thought they would be perfect for skateboarding. This inspired him to start Cadillac Wheels in 1973.

Urethane is a polymer - which is a fancy word for "many molecules". These molecules are all strung together to form really long chains (and sometimes more complicated structures, too).

Things that are made of polymers look, feel, and act different depending on how their atoms and molecules are connected, as well as which ones we use to begin with! Some polymers are rubbery, like a bouncy ball, some are sticky and gooey, and some are hard and tough, like a skateboard.

How many is "many many many"? Well, usually a single polymer molecule is made out of hundreds of thousands (or even millions!) of monomers (one molecule). Wow! That's a lot!


Here are some things common to all urethane polymers:

  1. All polymers are made by repeating two different types of small molecules which she represented as A and B.

  2. In poly-urethanes they alternate ABABABABA..ect. for many repeating units.

  3. The A side provides half of the urethane link and the B side provides the other. 

  4. When you put all the A's and B's together, they easily connect together to form extremely long chains with freshly made urethane linkages.

  5. When you have molecules this long and flexible, they form elastic solids.


Urethane was the perfect solution for skateboard wheels.

  • Urethane  has really good abrasion resistance, which means that the wheel will last a while.

  • Urethane produces a really good grip with the ground. It  gives great traction. So that means you can control your board.

  • Urethane has a real high resiliency, or rebound, while still rolling very fast.

Did you know?

Adjusting the recipe for urethane can change wheel properties. Durometer (a fancy name for wheel hardness) can affect  what ways you can use your board.Softer wheels are generally best for cruisers and longboards as they have more traction. Hard wheels best for smooth, technical contest type skating because they tend to be faster.

So how are skate wheels made? Check out this inside look at the Bones Wheels factory:

Week 2 Lab


This week we tested out some polymer for their rebound properties. At Bones, every batch of wheels are tested in a similar way to what we did today. They use a urethane ball to test out the quality of the urethane mixed for each batch of wheels. We tested a putty material, a borax based crystal material and a store bought super ball to see which had more bound.


You can make a similar type of bouncy ball at home with the direction below:

  • Objective: 


    • To become familiar with polymers.

    • To create non-toxic balls from household items. 

    • To make observations and comparisons in a consistent, scientific manner. 

  • Supplies: 


    • Elmer's® White Glue-All 
      (1 fl. oz. per ball)

    • Elmer's® Blue Glue Gel 
      (1 fl. oz. per ball)

    • Borax powder 
      (1 g per ball)

    • Liquid latex rubber, from local craft or hobby store 
      (1/2 fl. oz. per ball)

    • 5% acetic acid (household vinegar) 
      (1/2 fl. oz. per ball)

    • Small disposable plastic cups

    • Plastic stirring rod or wooden stick

    • Tap water

    • Small sealable plastic bags

    • Ruler (for finding bounce height and diameter) 

    • Scale (for finding mass) 

    • Length of string (for finding circumference) 

  • Safety: 

    • Wear safety glasses and lab aprons, if available.

    • If a chemical gets into eyes, immediately flush eyes with water.

    • Always avoid inhaling fumes of chemicals.

    • Never taste any chemicals or items used in the laboratory.

    • Elmer's® White Glue-All and Blue Glue Gel are nontoxic, but should not be ingested.

    • Borax is an eye irritant.

    • Liquid Latex is preserved in ammonia and will have a very strong odor.

    • Household Vinegar is a 5% acetic acid solution.

    • For Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on these chemicals, click here.

We will be making three types of polymer balls and testing their rebound. All activities should be done in well ventilated areas with parent supervision.

  • Ball #1 Directions - Procedure for Making a Polymer Ball from White Elmer's® Glue-All and Borax Powder:

    • Measure 30 mL (2 tbsp) of glue into a plastic cup with the 30 mL level marked.*

    • Add approximately 1 gram (1/2 tsp) of Borax powder to the glue.

    • Stir vigorously until the mixture clumps and sticks to the stirring rod or stick.

    • Remove the clump of polymer from the stick. Hold it under running water and shape into a ball.

    • Pat the ball dry and bounce it on the table top.

    • Save for activities.

  • Ball #2 Directions - Procedure for Making a Polymer Ball from Blue Elmer's® Glue Gel and Borax Solutio

    • Measure 30 mL (2 tbsp) of glue into a plastic cup with the 30 mL level marked.*

    • To prepare borax solution, add approximately 1 gram (1/2 tsp) of borax powder to 2.5 mL(1/2 tsp) of tap water. Stir until powder is wet.

    • Add the wet borax to the glue.

    • Stir vigorously until the mixture clumps and sticks to the stirring rod or stick.

    • Remove the clump of polymer from the stick. Hold it under running water and shape into a ball.

    • Pat the ball dry and bounce it on the table top.

    • Save for activities.

  • Ball #3 Directions - Instructions on How to Make a Polymer Ball from Liquid Latex and Vinegar:

    • ​Measure approximately 15 mL (1 tbsp) of liquid latex rubber into a marked plastic cup.*

    • Pour 15 mL (1 tbsp) of water into the liquid rubber and stir to mix.

    • Using a dropper, slowly add 15 mL (1 tbsp) of 5% acetic acid solution (household vinegar) to the latex, while continuously stirring.

    • When the mixture takes on the consistency of "rubber," remove it from the cup. Hold it under running water and shape into a ball.

    • Pat the ball dry and bounce it on the table top.

    • Save for activities.

  • Investigations:  Conduct the following tests on polymer balls.

    • Physical Appearance:  Describe the texture, color, smell, and other observable characteristics.

    • Comparisons:  Compare the different types of balls, OR compare the same type of ball made by different students.

    • Bounce:  Bounce the ball and observe its bounce height and the sound it makes. Also try bouncing ball on different surfaces.

    • Measurements:  Find the circumference, radius, diameter, and mass of the sphere.

Week 2 Homework

You can choose one of two option for Skate Science homework that will be due on Monday, February 27th.

Option #1: Complete the lab above and take photos. Then send us the photos and your investigation results.

Option #2: Pretend you are Frank Nasworthy in the 1970s and getting ready to introduce the first urethane wheel to skateboarding. Create a commercial or add for this new product that share how it will change skateboarding in the future.

Email you homework before midnight, Monday, February 27th to for your treasure box voucher.

Week 3
March 1st & 3rd
The Chemistry & Engineering of 

Yocaher Skareboards shared this history,


"Skateboarders today have a wealth of griptape options, but it wasn’t always so. From hand-stenciled designs to the multiple available colorways, griptape has come a long way since its earliest forms. Let’s take a closer look at the least-appreciated skate accessory.

It’s no secret that skateboards arose from surfing in the 1960s. Just as today, surfers of that era used different methods to keep their feet from slipping on their boards. Wax was a common choice, and it remains popular in surfing to this day. Another option, and one which is also still used, is spray adhesive. Both of these products work to provide tackiness that prevents surfers’ feet from slipping on their boards, but they have their drawbacks for skateboarding.

Screenshot 2023-03-02 at 7.34.09 PM.png

First, they are messy. Wax melts in high temperatures, which is less of a problem for surfers riding in the ocean than skateboarders on concrete. Making a deck sticky with an adhesive means tracking dirt and grime from the road onto the riding surface, which eventually leads back to slipping.


Second, wax and adhesives both wear away over time. This means constantly having to reapply the product to the board. You wouldn’t be able to just keep layering it forever though, which would mean cleaning the sticky mess off your board before each application.

The Equipment Revolution


As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, skateboarding still had no collective solution to its slippage problem. Of course, slipping off the deck wasn’t quite the issue yet that it would soon become. Skating was still an pastime for surfers at that time. It was all carving and cruising. Wheels were mostly metal or clay, and their bearings barely rolled. The equipment simply had not evolved enough.

Screenshot 2023-03-02 at 7.51.52 PM.png

Then everything changed. The years 1972 to 1975 saw the introduction of the first urethane wheels (Cadillac – 1972), precision bearings (in Road Rider urethane wheels – 1974), and purpose-built skateboard trucks (Bennett - 1975). Suddenly riders were able to achieve and sustain much faster speeds. Turns became sharper and quicker, new tricks suddenly became possible, and the need for grip increased exponentially.

An Engineer solves problems. Soon, skateboarders began think like engineers to find new solutions to their need for traction. 

No one knows who the first person to think to apply sandpaper to a skateboard deck. If you scan over the pictures of people riding boards before the mid 1970s and those in museums today, you’ll see that the occasional board had griptape. Usually, it would be applied in an offhand way, just strips of sandpaper stuck to the deck, likely with adhesive spray.

It was also around this time that plastic skateboards made their appearance. The surfaces of these boards often had a rough texture or a waffle pattern applied to supply grip. So from pieces of sandpaper to a fully textured surface, the idea of griptape was a logical leap from there. Soon, manufacturers sprang up to fill the new niche.

The grit in sandpaper is usually silicon carbide, and the same is true for skateboard griptape. Early forms of this product had the grit applied to a paper backing, which had an adhesive applied to the back side of it. If you’ve ever gotten paper wet, you can see the problem that wet backing could cause.


The solution came in the form of plastic backing. Now, grip tape was waterproof. Modern griptape is still made the same way. The plastic backing does not deteriorate, so the grip on a modern skateboard will long outlast the deck itself.

Griptape has not changed much since then. But, in the early 2000s, a pro skater named Louie Barletta poked a bunch of holes in his grip to get rid of bubbles. This was said to be the start of Mob Griptape (one of the best selling brands today). And during the last few years others have started to experiment with non-abrasive grip to save skaters the wear on their shoes.

Check out this video on how chemistry is involved in looking for the right materials for sandpaper and griptape:

Check out this guide to buying griptape

Week 3 Homework

For your homework, choose one of these two experiments to do at home. Send us a video or photos by Monday, March 13th to get a coupon for our treasure chest.

Option 1:

Option 2:

Week 3

Week 4
March 15th & 17th
The Chemistry of Surf and Skate Wax


Skate Wax vs Surf makes things slick (reduces friction) and one makes things sticky (increases friction). 



Skateboarding wax is usually made from paraffin wax. It helps a skater reduce the friction they get when they slide or grind down rails, curbs, and other hard surfaces. Naturally, slides and grinds create friction, which can slow down a skater's speed. This make landing tricks more difficult. This is where skate wax comes in...wax will fill in tiny cracks and imperfections to smooth out the surface of what they are skating one (like concrete or metal), so a skater can pull off their curb. coping or rail tricks.


Surfboard wax (also also made from paraffin wax) gives you a tight grip and creates traction between your feet on your board so a surfer does not slip off when their board paddling out to the waves or riding them.


How can wax create friction but also reduce friction? 

That is where chemistry comes in. Skate was adds in a bit of oil. (Skaters have all kinds of "secret recipes"). While, surf wax adds in a little bit of adhesive or tree sap for stickiness.


Your Homework:

Make your own skate wax recipe. You can use your choice of oils and wax using the general instructions below.


Oil options (You only need 1 teaspoon):

Vegetable Oil, Canola Oil, OliveOil, Butter, Shortening


Wax Options:

Cut Up Candles, Gulf Canning Wax, Bees Wax or Old Crayons


Other Supplies:

An adult to help, a stirring stick (we used wooden chopstick that we could throw away), a small paper cup, a microwave safe bowl or pan for the stove.

Ask an adult for help to preheat an oven to about 150 °F (or use a microwave). Let the oven warm up for at least 5 minutes while you prepare the wax. 


Cut candles, crayons or Gulf wax into small 1 in pieces. (You can use some leftover tea lights or a pack of crayons you no longer need) 


Slice them up to roughly the same size. Also, pull out any wrappers or wicks as you come upon them. The exact size you cut the wax to isn’t that important, but keep in mind that smaller chunks are easier to work with and melt faster. The best candles to use for your skate wax are ones made out of paraffin, although any type of waxy, oily product tends to work.


Now we are going to melt the wax. Wax has a low melting point, so keep the temperature low to avoid burning it. If your oven doesn’t have a lot of low-heat options, use the lowest setting available. You can also use a microwave at 30 second increments with wax in a microwave safe, glass container. (We used a pyrex liquid measuring cup). Stir the wax after each 30 seconds until the wax is liquid. 


Pour about 1 teaspoon your choice oil in with the melter wax and stir until it is combined. If using butter, use only 1/2 teaspoon. Less is more when using the oil. If you add too much, you end up with a soft and brittle wax.

Screenshot 2023-03-17 at 4.29.08 PM.png

The wax gets pretty hot in the oven, so consider setting the bowl aside for 5 minutes to let it cool a little.


Have an adult help you pour the warm wax into the paper cup. Fill it just about half way. Then, put the cup in the refrigerator to cool overnight. Then, leave it uncovered in your refrigerator. Wait for the wax to feel cool and completely solid to the touch. Peel away the paper cup to see your wax. Take a photo and email us at using subject: Skate Science Homework for prize from the next Skate Science class.

Week 4

Week 5
March 12th & 14th
The Chemistry of Concrete

Modern concrete is everywhere. It in in everything from roads to buildings to bridges to, you guessed it...skateparks. But today's concrete can break down in as few as 50 years. A mystery of the past shows that concrete in the Roman Empire lasted much, much longer than 50 years. Scientists have worked to solve this mystery for centuries.


More than a thousand years after the western Roman Empire crumbled to dust, its concrete structures are still standing today. Scientists have finally began to figured out why: a special ingredient that makes the cement grow stronger—not weaker — and even self heal over time...saltwater & heat. We do know that although poured concrete in dry to the touch in 24-48 hours and durable enough to drive vehicles on in about a week, that it continues to react with the environment to become even harder over time.

To solve the mystery of the durable Roman Concrete, scientists began their search with an ancient recipe for mortar. They found out it was a concoction of volcanic ash, very pure lime, and seawater, mixed together with volcanic rocks and spread into wooden molds that were then immersed in more sea water. Researchers then studied drilled cores of a Roman harbor from Pozzuoli Bay near Naples, Italy. When they analyzed it, they found that the seawater had dissolved components of the volcanic ash, allowing new binding minerals to grow. Within a decade, a very rare hydrothermal mineral called aluminum tobermorite (Al-tobermorite) had formed in the concrete. Al-tobermorite, long known to give Roman concrete its strength, can be made in the lab, but it's very difficult to incorporate it in concrete. But the researchers found that when seawater percolates through a cement matrix, it reacts with volcanic ash and crystals to form Al-tobermorite and a porous mineral called phillipsite. So will you be seeing stronger piers and breakwaters anytime soon? Because both minerals take centuries to strengthen concrete, modern scientists are still working on recreating a modern version of Roman cement. (





Find 10 things in your neighborhood that are made from concrete


Middle School

Research 3 skateparks built out of concrete and share photos and their location with us


High School

All skateparks have flat area between features. This can also be applied to non-skatepark features like a driveway or concrete patio. Calculate the volume for a square slab. TIP: Depth is often provided in inches. There are 12 inches in a foot. Divide the measurement in inches to get feet.


The slab needed is 45' in length x 37' wide x 6" deep.

How many cubic yards of concrete do we need?


To calculate how much concrete you need for a square slab, you need to know the width, length, and depth of the slab. You can use the formula "Volume in Cubic Feet (ft3) = Width x Length x Depth" to find out the volume of the slab in cubic feet.

Once you have the volume in cubic feet, you can use the formula "Volume in Cubic Yards (yd3) = Volume in Cubic Feet (ft3) / 27" to find the volume in cubic yards, which is what is typically used when ordering concrete.


For example, if you have a square slab that is 10 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 4 inches deep, you can use the formula to calculate the volume in cubic feet:

Volume in Cubic Feet (ft3) = Width x Length x Depth Volume in Cubic Feet (ft3) = 10 ft x 10 ft x 4/12 ft Volume in Cubic Feet (ft3) = 33.33 ft3


To find the volume in cubic yards, you can use the formula:

Volume in Cubic Yards (yd3) = Volume in Cubic Feet (ft3) / 27 Volume in Cubic Yards (yd3) = 33.33 ft3 / 27 Volume in Cubic Yards (yd3) = 1.23 yd3

So, for this example, you would need to order 1.23 cubic yards of concrete for the slab.

Screenshot 2023-04-13 at 4.18.01 PM.png

Interested in a career in concrete? Take our FREE concrete certification class and get certified with CEMEX.

Week 5
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