STEM – Newton Knew Forces (F=ma) (Mini-Math Lesson Algebra/Algebra2)

Yesterday’s lesson was related to the motion of a pendulum and it’s graph as its swing was impacted by friction. Today we are looking at force, using a pendulum as the push (force) on an object (scooter). This is a fun little experiment that you could do with students, and in this time of home-schooling, it would be a relatively easy experiment for parents to set up with their kids. You just need some rope, a bucket full of water or even a jug of water to use as your pendulum, a door frame to swing the ‘pendulum’ from, and then a scooter or something with wheels that can move when pushed (so a wagon or a skateboard). You will also need a measuring tape, some weights to add to the scooter (three different weights), and something to mark start lines and height release for pendulum.

If it’s already sounding like too much work, don’t worry!! There is sample data in the activity, so you can still explore the mathematics if you don’t have the time to set up!!

The idea is to set up the pendulum so that it hangs from a door-frame/beam at the height of the scooter (so place scooters back end directly at where the pendulums lowest point so that the pendulum will hit the scooter and push it). Measure the weight of the pendulum bob (bucket/jug of water) before you begin. Measure the weight of the empty scooter. You then decide on a release height for the pendulum (will be the same height for each release). Mark the start position of the scooter (back end), position the scooter (empty) and release the pendulum from the designated height. It should hit the scooter and push the scooter. You then measure the distance the scooter traveled after it was hit (so from the start position) to where it ends (be sure to measure at the back of the scooter, to be consistent with the start position). The next step is to add some weight to the scooter (make sure it is secured on so it doesn’t fall off when pushed!). Repeat the experiment, record the distances and weights.  Do this for at least five different weights of the scooter – empty to heavier. (Don’t worry – I have included the PDF as well with all the detailed instructions).

Once data has been collected,then you will graph the data and look at how force and mass impacted acceleration. The goal of this experiment is to show that the rate of change of momentum of an object is proportional to the resultant force acting on the object and in the same direction.  Students will explore their table of data, make scatter plots, look at the relationships. The experiment has to do with Newtons’s 2nd Law, where Force=mass x acceleration. There are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • The pendulum weight represents the force (because you don’t change the drop height)
  • The scooter weight is proportional to the mass (because gravity is constant through the experiment)
  • The average distance the scooter moves is proportional to the acceleration
  • Weight is used in the experiment instead of mass, but for this experiment it is acceptable to deal with weight because the force of acceleration is constant throughout the activity. The weight in this activity is always proportional to the mass.

This activity comes from Fostering STEM Education with Casio Technology, Casio 2013. I have converted part of the activity (the pendulum component) to a ClassPad.net activity, which is shared in the link below and also overviewed in the video below. I have attached the complete activity, which includes a wagon-pushing activity. The PDF is the whole activity with a lot of description and calculator suggestions, as well as sample data.

  1. STEM – Newton Knew Forces (F=ma) ClassPad.net Activity
  2. STEM Newton Knew Forces (F=ma) (PDF)
  3. Video Overview – STEM Newton Knew Forces (F=ma) Mini-Math Lesson (Data & Regression)

 


The tool being used in these mini-math lessons is the FREE web-based math software, ClassPad.net.

Remember – if you want to save and/or modify any of these activities, create a free account.  Some useful links below: