OpenStax College Physics for AP® Courses

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Direct Measurement Video of a Toy Car Accelerating

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This is a short activity intended to allow students to practice kinematics using a video of a familiar object: a spring-powered toy car. Students measure displacement and elapsed time from the video and use these measurements to calculate average speed. Observing that the car has an initial speed of zero, students can find the final speed and acceleration. Students will use a QuickTime video recorded at 240 frames per second, making measurements directly from the video using a ruler and a frame-counter overlaid on the video. The video at right is a preview of the video students use for the activity.

Material Type: Activity/Lab

Author: Peter Bohacek

Newton's Second Law of Motion: Force, Acceleration and Velocity

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This educational wallsheet provides several simple illustrations of Newton's Second Law. In the activity included, students study the motion shown in the drawings to decide how it relates to the object's velocity, whether or not the velocity is changing (acceleration), and what forces are causing any acceleration. Activity worksheets are easily copied for use in the classroom with only the addition of paper and pencils. The activity provides teachers with background information, pre-activity reading, pre-activity discussion questions, an assessment, an extension activity for advanced students, and post-activity discussions that tie the classroom activity back to the Swift satellite launch. This is the second of four posters on Newton's Laws. A copy of the wallsheet intended to accompany the activity is available on this website.

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Diagram/Illustration, Lesson Plan

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

Physics of Roller Coasters

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Full-length lab curriculum was developed to teach Kinetic and Potential energies, Newton's Laws of Motion, velocity, friction and acceleration. Journal available at

Material Type: Activity/Lab, Lesson Plan

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