At this point in the unit, students have learned about Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle, Bernoulli's principle, and why above-ground storage tanks are of major concern in the Houston Ship Channel and other coastal areas. In this culminating activity, student groups act as engineering design teams to derive equations to determine the stability of specific above-ground storage tank scenarios with given tank specifications and liquid contents. With their floatation analyses completed and the stability determined, students analyze the tank stability in specific storm conditions. Then, teams are challenged to come up with improved storage tank designs to make them less vulnerable to uplift, displacement and buckling in storm conditions. Teams present their analyses and design ideas in short class presentations.
High School Physics
High School Physics Collection Resources (304)
Students work as physicists to understand centripetal acceleration concepts. They also learn about a good robot design and the accelerometer sensor. They also learn about the relationship between centripetal acceleration and centripetal force governed by the radius between the motor and accelerometer and the amount of mass at the end of the robot's arm. Students graph and analyze data collected from an accelerometer, and learn to design robots with proper weight distribution across the robot for their robotic arms. Upon using a data logging program, they view their own data collected during the activity. By activity end , students understand how a change in radius or mass can affect the data obtained from the accelerometer through the plots generated from the data logging program. More specifically, students learn about the accuracy and precision of the accelerometer measurements from numerous trials.
Students play and record the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” song using musical instruments and analyze the intensity of the sound using free audio editing and recording software. Then they use hollow Styrofoam half-spheres as acoustic mirrors (devices that reflect and focus sound), determine the radius of curvature of the mirror and calculate its focal length. Students place a microphone at the acoustic mirror focal point, re-record their songs, and compare the sound intensity on plot spectrums generated from their recordings both with and without the acoustic mirrors. A worksheet and KWL chart are provided.
Students construct rockets from balloons propelled along a guide string. They use this model to learn about Newton's three laws of motion, examining the effect of different forces on the motion of the rocket.
In this lesson, students learn about work as defined by physical science and see that work is made easier through the use of simple machines. Already encountering simple machines everyday, students will be alerted to their widespread uses in everyday life. This lesson serves as the starting point for the Simple Machines Unit.
In this activity about light and perception, learners discover how a flash of light can create a lingering image called an "afterimage" on the retina of the eye. Learners will be surprised when they continue to see an image of a bright object after staring at it and looking away. Use this activity to introduce learners to principles of optics and perception as well as to explain why the full moon often appears larger when it is on the horizon than when it is overhead. This lesson guide also includes a few extensions like how to take "afterimage photographs."
The lesson begins with a demonstration introducing students to the force between two current carrying loops, comparing the attraction and repulsion between the loops to that between two magnets. After formal lecture on Ampere's law, students begin to use the concepts to calculate the magnetic field around a loop. This is applied to determine the magnetic field of a toroid, imagining a toroid as a looped solenoid.
Students design, build and test model roller coasters using foam tubing. The design process integrates energy concepts as they test and evaluate designs that address the task as an engineer would. The goal is for students to understand the basics of engineering design associated with kinetic and potential energy to build an optimal roller coaster. The marble starts with potential energy that is converted to kinetic energy as it moves along the track. The diameter of the loops that the marble traverses without falling out depends on the kinetic energy obtained by the marble.
Students prepare for the associated activity in which they investigate acceleration by collecting acceleration vs. time data using the accelerometer of a sliding Android device. Based on the experimental set-up for the activity, students form hypotheses about the acceleration of the device. Students will investigate how the force on the device changes according to Newton's Second Law. Different types of acceleration, including average, instantaneous and constant acceleration, are introduced. Acceleration and force is described mathematically and in terms of processes and applications.
Students investigate the motion of a simple pendulum through direct observation and data collection using Android® devices. First, student groups create pendulums that hang from the classroom ceiling, using Android smartphones or tablets as the bobs, taking advantage of their built-in accelerometers. With the Android devices loaded with the (provided) AccelDataCapture app, groups explore the periodic motion of the pendulums, changing variables (amplitude, mass, length) to see what happens, by visual observation and via the app-generated graphs. Then teams conduct formal experiments to alter one variable while keeping all other parameters constant, performing numerous trials, identifying independent/dependent variables, collecting data and using the simple pendulum equation. Through these experiments, students investigate how pendulums move and the changing forces they experience, better understanding the relationship between a pendulum's motion and its amplitude, length and mass. They analyze the data, either on paper or by importing into a spreadsheet application. As an extension, students may also develop their own algorithms in a provided App Inventor framework in order to automatically note the time of each period.
In this demonstration, amaze learners by performing simple tricks using mirrors. These tricks take advantage of how a mirror can reflect your right side so it appears to be your left side. To make the effect more dramatic, cover the mirror with a cloth, climb onto the table, straddle the mirror, and then drop the cloth as you appear to "take off." This resource contains information about how this trick was applied during the making of the movie "Star Wars."
In this simple exploration, a coiled phone cord slows the motion of a wave so you can see how a single pulse travels and what happens when two traveling wave pulses meet in the middle.
Antimatter, the charge reversed equivalent of matter, has captured the imaginations of science fiction fans for years as a perfectly efficient form of energy. While normal matter consists of atoms with negatively charged electrons orbiting positively charged nuclei, antimatter consists of positively charged positrons orbiting negatively charged anti-nuclei. When antimatter and matter meet, both substances are annihilated, creating massive amounts of energy. Instances in which antimatter is portrayed in science fiction stories (such as Star Trek) are examined, including their purposes (fuel source, weapons, alternate universes) and properties. Students compare and contrast matter and antimatter, learn how antimatter can be used as a form of energy, and consider potential engineering applications for antimatter.
Students are introduced to Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and Bernoulli's principle. Fundamental definitions, equations, practice problems and engineering applications are supplied. A PowerPoint® presentation, practice problems and grading rubric are provided.
This webpage from Exploratorium provides an activity that demonstrates the Bernoulli principle with readily available materials. In this activity a table tennis ball is levitated in a stream of air from a vacuum cleaner. The site provides an explanation of what happens, asks questions about the activity, and also describes applications to flight. This activity is part of Exploratorium's Science Snacks series.
In this quick and simple activity, learners explore how the distribution of the mass of an object determines the position of its center of gravity, its angular momentum, and your ability to balance it. Learners discover it is easier to balance a wooden dowel on the tip of their fingers when a lump of clay is near the top of the stick. Use this activity to introduce learners to rotational inertia.
Students follow the steps of the engineering design process as they design and construct balloons for aerial surveillance. After their first attempts to create balloons, they are given the associated Estimating Buoyancy lesson to learn about volume, buoyancy and density to help them iterate more successful balloon designs.Applying their newfound knowledge, the young engineers build and test balloons that fly carrying small flip cameras that capture aerial images of their school. Students use the aerial footage to draw maps and estimate areas.
This trick from Exploratorium physicist Paul Doherty lets you add together the bounces of two balls and send one ball flying. When we tried this trick on the Exploratorium's exhibit floor, we gathered a crowd of visitors who wanted to know what we were doing. We explained that we were engaged in serious scientific experimentation related to energy transfer. Some of them may have believed us. If you'd like to go into the physical calculations of this phenomenam, see the related resource "Bouncing Balls" - it's the same activity but with the math explained.
In this optics activity, learners discover that when they rotate a special black and white pattern called a Benham's Disk, it produces the illusion of colored rings. Learners experiment with the speed of rotation and direction of rotation to observe varying patterns. Use this activity to explain to learners how our eyes detect color and how different color receptors in the eye respond at different rates.
Demonstrate the Bernoulli Principle using simple materials on a small or large scale. This resource includes two activities that allow learners to experience the Bernoulli Principle, in which an object is suspended in air by blowing down on it. Use this activity to explain how atomizers work and why windows are sometimes sucked out of their frames as two trains rush past each other.
Bernoulli's principle relates the pressure of a fluid to its elevation and its speed. Bernoulli's equation can be used to approximate these parameters in water, air or any fluid that has very low viscosity. Students learn about the relationships between the components of the Bernoulli equation through real-life engineering examples and practice problems.
In this activity, a spinning bicycle wheel resists efforts to tilt it and point the axle in a new direction. Learners use the bicycle wheel like a giant gyroscope to explore angular momentum and torque. Learners can participate in the assembly of the Bicycle Wheel Gyro or use a preassembled unit to explore these concepts and go for an unexpected spin!
With recent advances in physics (and philosophy), we are finally able to make some headway into some of the most pressing questions of the universe. We will explore such topics as the big bang theory, time travel, relativity, extraterrestrial life, and string theory. We will attempt to answer some big questions such as: Was there a beginning of time? Will there be an end? Is time travel possible?
This lesson begins with a demonstration prompting students to consider how current generates a magnetic field and the direction of the field that is generated. Through formal lecture, students learn Biot-Savart's law in order to calculate, most simply, the magnetic field produced in the center of a circular current carrying loop. For applications, students find it is necessary to integrate the field produced over all small segments in an actual current carrying wire.
Students make a skydiver and parachute contraption to demonstrate how drag caused by air resistance slows the descent of skydivers as they travel back to Earth. Gravity pulls the skydiver toward the Earth, while the air trapped by the parachute provides an upward resisting force (drag) on the skydiver.
This activity provides instructions for using a flashlight and aquarium (or other container of water) to explain why the sky is blue and sunsets are red. When the white light from the sun shines through the earth's atmosphere, it collides with gas molecules with the blue light scattering more than the other colors, leaving a dominant yellow-orange hue to the transmitted light. The scattered light makes the sky blue; the transmitted light makes the sunset reddish orange. The section entitled What's Going On? explains this phenomena.
Students are introduced to the challenge question, which revolves around proving that a cabinet x-ray system can produce bone mineral density images. Students work independently to generate ideas from the questions provided, then share with partners and then with the class as part of the Multiple Perspectives phase of this unit. Then, as part of the associated activity, students explore multiple websites to gather information about bone mineral density and answer worksheet questions, followed by a quiz on the material covered in the articles.
Students revisit the mathematics required to find bone mineral density, to which they were introduced in lesson 2 of this unit. They learn the equation to find intensity, Beer's law, and how to use it. Then they complete a sheet of practice problems that use the equation.
Students examine an image produced by a cabinet x-ray system to determine if it is a quality bone mineral density image. They write in their journals about what they need to know to be able to make this judgment. Students learn about what bone mineral density is, how a BMD image can be obtained, and how it is related to the x-ray field. Students examine the process used to obtain a BMD image and how this process is related to mathematics, primarily through logarithmic functions. They study the relationship between logarithms and exponents, the properties of logarithms, common and natural logarithms, solving exponential equations and Beer's law.
In this optics activity, learners examine how polarized light can reveal stress patterns in clear plastic. Learners place a fork between two pieces of polarizing material and induce stress by squeezing the tines together. Learners will observe the colored stress pattern in the image of the plastic that is projected onto a screen using an overhead projector. Learners rotate one of the polarizing filters to explore which orientations give the most dramatic color effects. This activity can be related to bones, as bones develop stress patterns from the loads imposed upon them every day.
Here’s a new “spin” on an old toy. In this modern adaptation of a classic toy—the spool racer—a plastic water bottle is propelled by energy stored in a wound-up rubber band.
Students examine how different balls react when colliding with different surfaces, giving plenty of opportunity for them to see the difference between elastic and inelastic collisions, learn how to calculate momentum, and understand the principle of conservation of momentum.
In this activity, students examine how different balls react when colliding with different surfaces. Also, they will have plenty of opportunity to learn how to calculate momentum and understand the principle of conservation of momentum.
In this activity, learners observe what happens when they give a light source like a neon glow lamp a "Bronx Cheer." The lights appear to wiggle back and forth and flicker when learners blow air through their lips. However, learners will discover that the only thing vibrating is themselves. Use this activity to explore different forms of light as well as visual perception.
In this activity, learners observe as soap bubbles float on a cushion of carbon dioxide gas. Learners blow bubbles into an aquarium filled with a slab of dry ice. Learners will be amazed as the bubbles hover on the denser layer of carbon dioxide gas, then begin to expand and sink before freezing on the dry ice. Use this activity to discuss sublimation, density, and osmosis as well as principles of buoyancy, semipermeability, and interference.
Students work in groups to create soap bubbles on a smooth surface, recording their observations from which they formulate theories to explain what they see (color swirls on the bubble surfaces caused by refraction). Then they apply this theory to thin films in general, including porous films used in biosensors, listing factors that could change the color(s) that become visible to the naked eye, and learn how those factors can be manipulated to give information on gene detection. Finally (by experimentation or video), students see what happens when water is dropped onto the surface of a Bragg mirror.
Students build their own small-scale model roller coasters using pipe insulation and marbles, and then analyze them using physics principles learned in the associated lesson. They examine conversions between kinetic and potential energy and frictional effects to design roller coasters that are completely driven by gravity. A class competition using different marbles types to represent different passenger loads determines the most innovative and successful roller coasters.