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Experiment: A game of shove ha’penny

This old English pub game will provide the setting for Newton's second law and the new field of Dynamics.
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This is our final week. It’s time for a bit of fun. Shove Ha’penny, an old English pub game. A Shove Ha’penny board is easy enough to make. There’s no particular size for it. We used some spare timber that was roughly 400 millimetres long. We marked out nine beds by ruled lines, added a backboard, and we added pegs underneath to catch the edge of the table.
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Five coins or metal discs are shoved along the board using the palm of your hand, like this. Your aim is to land them between the lines. To win you must land three times on each bed. If you land more than three times the score goes to your opponent. The name comes from an old British coin, the ha’penny, half a penny, but we’re using Swiss francs. If a coin doesn’t land where you wanted to, you can try to nudge it with another coin, like this. If a coin doesn’t reach the lines, at all, you have another go. Once your turn is complete, you record your scores and hand the coins to your opponent for their turn.
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The first one to land three coins on each bed is the winner.
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That’s one.
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That’s two.
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Three!
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Now, I think I must use my right hand now. Yes use your right hand Oh, no. Oh, you can have that one again.
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Got one. Don’t go there you’ll knock it.
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I think that’s probably enough. Yeah, that’s great. We can use this game to introduce impulse-momentum, which is how Sir Isaac first explained dynamics, his second law.

There’s a lot to be gained from studying games.

Textbooks on Engineering Mechanics use the game of billiards when explaining impulse-momentum. We’ll use the simpler game of shove ha’penny.

This old English pub game will provide the setting for Newton’s second law and the new field of Dynamics.

Talking points

• Although the game is called shove ha’penny, some people say that it should be spelt halfpenny. We spent hours on this and decided to stay with ha’penny. What do you think?

If you attempt the experiment, take a photo and upload it to our Through Engineers’ Eyes Padlet wall. You can include a link to your photo in the comments for this step (click on your post on the Padlet wall and then copy the web address).