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How Unity 3D’s Amazing Physics Engine Can Help Students Solve Physics Problem And Have Fun Doing It

unity 3d engine

Unity 3D is a powerful 3D engine for the creation of both 3D and 2D across multiple platforms including PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS amongst others. It features a very user friendly development environment and allows users to develop great games even without in-depth knowledge of scripting. If I were to highlight the many features that make Unity 3D as awesome as it is, this article would be more like a pamphlet. So by employing enormous self-restraint, I shall focus more on its possible impact on education.

Unity 3D being software mainly for 3D game development provides developers with an incredible physics engine that can be used to simulate characters in real-world environments, being affected by various physical forces like wind pressure, gravity, friction, buoyancy and others. These physical influences manifest themselves in Unity 3Ds various components that can be assigned to game objects. These components include:

  • Rigidbody: This is a component that allows a game object in Unity 3D to react to forces like friction, drag and gravity. When assigned to a game object, a drop menu is produced where you can input values for the objects mass, angular drag and you can select if it is affected by gravity or constrained to a particular axis. If willing, you can use scripting to also access and change the object’s centre of gravity, set its maximum velocity and general tweak with the objects reactance to forces.
  • Colliders: These basically describe how the game objects react to collisions with other objects. Depending on the shape of the collider and the properties defined on the objects Rigidbody, it simulates the collision and produces an almost exact interpretation of how the object would react. The colliders come in Box, Sphere and Cylinder form but can be tweaked to match the exact shape of the object.
  • Joints: These describe the physics of joints be it a hinge joint, a spring joint or an otherwise special joint which can be configured. The working of joints in Unity 3D is a bit complex and not directly applicable to helping students.
  • Effectors: Components like BuoyancyEffector2D can help students simulate an object’s behaviour within a fluid of a set density. It also allows for the student to pick a particular angle and magnitude of fluid’s flow depending on the problem at hand. The effector takes note of the object’s mass and using it’s density and other parameters, simulates the object’s motion within it.

Unity 3D also provides various functions that can be called with scripting to give different physical inputs to objects. Some examples are:

  • AddForce(force,mode): This is a function that can be called in a script to simulate the addition of a force in vector form (given it’s xyz components and magnitude) to the object. The term “mode” refers to if the force is treated as an impulse or as a normal continuous force.
  • AddTorque(torque,mode): As the name cleverly informs, the AddTorque function is similar to the AddForce function except instead of adding a particular force to an object, it adds a torque which is equivalent to a force being applied to the end of a lever.

Amongst many other.It can be clearly seen that with a combination of rigidbodies storing the physical properties of an object, colliders describing the object’s motion after collisions and functions that allowing different kind of forces to be applied to the objects, physics problems for students can be solved easily and a game can even be made out of it. Unity ensures that the values concerning the objects motion like its displacement, velocity, acceleration, time taken to complete a particular course, world position and rotation can also be gotten and logged.


I’m Olutade Ajiboye, a freelance writer immersed in all things technology and gaming.

Currently studying Electrical/Electronics Engineering in the University of Lagos, Nigeria; I am ingrained with a love for devices and an urge to be amidst technological advances of all kinds.

I am currently a game developer, working on both 3D and 2D multi-platform games and I’m about to begin a nano-degree in Virtual Reality.

Below is a link to my website:

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