OpenStax College Physics for AP® Courses

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Using Direct Measurement Video to find the acceleration of a rocket-powered cart

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A video of a student accelerating across a stage on a cart powered by a releasing compressed carbon dioxide from a fire extinguisher can be used to analyze constant acceleration. This video includes a to-scale ruler that students can use to find displacement, as well as a frame counter that can be used to find elapsed time. This lesson is meant to be a direct application of using the kinematic equations to solve for the acceleration of the cart.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Author: Rebekah Johnson

Graphing 1D Kinematic Motion

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In this demonstration students are given a position, velocity or acceleration graph showing the motion of an object. They are asked to write a short description of the motion, and make predictions by completing the remaining two graphs.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Assessment, Lesson Plan

Author: Aaron Larson

Sliding Textbooks

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In the culminating activity of the unit, students explore and apply their knowledge of forces, friction, acceleration and gravity in a two-part experiment. First, student groups measure the average acceleration of a textbook pulled along a table by varying weights (with optional extensions, such as with the addition of a pulley or an inclined plane). Then, with a simple modification to the same experimental setup, teams test different surfaces for the effects of friction, graphing and analyzing their results. Students also consider the real-world applications for high- and low-friction surfaces for different situations and purposes, seeing how forces play a role in engineering design and material choices.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Jacob Teter, Liz Anthony, Scott Strobel

Mouse Trap Racing in the Computer Age!

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Students design, build and evaluate a spring-powered mouse trap racer. For evaluation, teams equip their racers with an intelligent brick from a LEGO© MINDSTORMS© NXT Education Base Set and a HiTechnic© acceleration sensor. They use acceleration data collected during the launch to compute velocity and displacement vs. time graphs. In the process, students learn about the importance of fitting mathematical models to measurements of physical quantities, reinforce their knowledge of Newtonian mechanics, deal with design compromises, learn about data acquisition and logging, and carry out collaborative assessment of results from all participating teams.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Author: Pavel Khazron

Newton Rocket Car

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The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate Newton's third law of motion which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction through a small wooden car. The Newton cars show how action/reaction works and how the mass of a moving object affects the acceleration and force of the system. Subsequently, the Newton cars provide students with an excellent analogy for how rockets actually work.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Brian Argrow, Geoffrey Hill, Janet Yowell, Jay Shah, Jeff White, Malinda Schaefer Zarske

Projectile Magic

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Students watch video clips from October Sky and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to learn about projectile motion. They explore the relationships between displacement, velocity and acceleration and calculate simple projectile motion. The objective of this activity is to articulate concepts related to force and motion through direct immersive interaction based on the theme, The Science Behind Harry Potter. Students' interest is piqued by the use of popular culture in the classroom.

Material Type: Lesson Plan

Authors: Christine Hawthorne, Rachel Howser

Magical Motion

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Students watch video clips from the October Sky and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movies to see examples of projectile motion. Then they explore the relationships between displacement, velocity and acceleration, and calculate simple projectile motion. The objective of this activity is to articulate concepts related to force and motion through direct immersive interaction based on "The Science Behind Harry Potter" theme. Students' interest is piqued by the use of popular culture in the classroom.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Authors: Christine Hawthorne, Rachel Howser

Motion in 2D (AR)

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Try the new "Ladybug Motion 2D" simulation for the latest updated version. Learn about position, velocity, and acceleration vectors. Move the ball with the mouse or let the simulation move the ball in four types of motion (2 types of linear, simple harmonic, circle).

Material Type: Simulation

Authors: Michael Dubson, Sam Reid

Motion in 2D

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Try the new "Ladybug Motion 2D" simulation for the latest updated version. Learn about position, velocity, and acceleration vectors. Move the ball with the mouse or let the simulation move the ball in four types of motion (2 types of linear, simple harmonic, circle).

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Interactive

Authors: Michael Dubson, Sam Reid

What Is Newton's Second Law?

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Students are introduced to Newton's second law of motion: force = mass x acceleration. After a review of force, types of forces and Newton's first law, Newton's second law of motion is presented. Both the mathematical equation and physical examples are discussed, including Atwood's Machine to illustrate the principle. Students come to understand that an object's acceleration depends on its mass and the strength of the unbalanced force acting upon it. They also learn that Newton's second law is commonly used by engineers as they design machines, structures and products, everything from towers and bridges to bicycles, cribs and pinball machines. This lesson is the second in a series of three lessons that are intended to be taught as a unit.

Material Type: Lesson Plan

Authors: Elizabeth Anthony, Jacob Teter, Scott Strobel

What Is Newton's First Law?

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Students are introduced to the concepts of force, inertia and Newton's first law of motion: objects at rest stay at rest and objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Examples of contact and non-contact types of forces are provided, specifically applied, spring, drag, frictional forces, and magnetic, electric, gravitational forces. Students learn the difference between speed, velocity and acceleration, and come to see that the change in motion (or acceleration) of an object is caused by unbalanced forces. They also learn that engineers consider and take advantage of these forces and laws of motion in their designs. Through a PowerPoint® presentation and some simple teacher demonstrations these fundamental science concepts are explained and illustrated. This lesson is the first in a series of three lessons that are intended to be taught as a unit.

Material Type: Lesson Plan

Authors: Elizabeth Anthony, Jacob Teter, Scott Strobel