Day 41: Tom Petty Part 2 with awesome VA.

Advanced Physics:

Today is the type of day I love in physics.  My students knew they were going to be pressed for time today, so yesterday I told them they could get started as soon as they arrived to the physics room.  We have eight minute passing time, and in each of the classes, the majority of the students were already working in their groups before the bell even rang…. LOVE IT!

As promised, here is a picture of the free fall timer.



We even had time at the end of the hour to have a quick post-lab discussion.  We looked at our data (the acceleration value and the mass of the object dropped) and calculated a class average, then compared it to the commonly accepted value.   I then showed the students the video analysis of a lacrosse ball dropped from our electromagnet (it is a few years old) but I was able to get data for the bounce.  Here is a screen capture of it:


Notice the value of the acceleration as the ball travels UP… that’s right ~-9.88m/s/s !!  This definitely surprised a few of the students.  I then related this back to our phan cart that was setup to do a U-turn…. same graphs, then the phan cart when I pushed it up an incline and allowed it to roll back down; this then becomes the steepest possible ramp… just like we discussed in the pre-lab yesterday, but now going ‘up the ramp and down’ rather than just ‘down’.  I love it when I can come full circle with an experiment or concept.

I closed by re-enforcing the idea that all the representations … graphs and kinematic equations apply to free fall, we just know the value of the acceleration.


My class is offered for CAPP credit.  The students taking the course for this credit completed a different experiment.  They used two photogates to gather acceleration data as a function of the angle of the ramp, like Galileo.  The 24 students worked in groups and will pool the data in a google spreadsheet.  They will plot it with Logger Pro, then extrapolate the data to ramp angle of 90 degrees.

Tomorrow we WB the constant acceleration problems, I think I have a pretty cool idea for that, but that will wait until tomorrow’s post.

General Physics:

Today was the last day for our optics unit.  The student took the summative test on mirrors.



Day 40: The Kinematic Equations, and Tom Petty

Advanced Physics:

We started the class by reviewing the graphs we obtained from the ramp lab and the meaning of the slope for each  linear graph. We also reviewed how to use the golden graph, or the velocity – time graph to solve constant acceleration problems.   I reminded them that the practice sheet they were assigned last week  was due Wednesday and they should be prepared to present the solution to each problem graphically or with the kinematic equations.

“Wait, what?  solved with the kinematic equations…. what kinematic equations?”  Now I have them ! I reminded them that they really had 2 of the three kinematic equations from the EOLS  (Equation Of the Line) for each linear graph we developed in the ramp lab.

The EOL from the v-t graph —> vf =aΔt+vi  —> Traditional Kinematic Equation #1

The EOL from the v^2 – Δx graph —> vf^2=2aΔx + vi^2 —> Traditional Kinematic Equation #2

I refer to the traditional kinematic equation #3 as the “Granddaddy” because it covers all of what we have seen so far. This one is xf=1/2aΔt^2 + viΔt + xi.   To arrive at this one, we go back to the v-t graph once again.  The one I draw has an initial positive velocity and a positive acceleration. I make use of the total area trapped to develop the ‘Grandaddy’.

There has been some debate in some circles lately about only solving problems graphically and not even helping the students develop the kinematic equations.  A large percentage of my advanced students are going to take another physics course in college, and I want them to have seen and worked with the equations they will most likely be given in a single lecture.


We then transitioned into an example of constant acceleration. Once again I went back to our ramp experiment and recreated the stack of graphs we developed.  Then I make the ramp a bit steeper and one more time making it as steep as possible:

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.24.00 PM

The last ramp that is as steep as possible is a vertical ramp.  In each class, one student (thankfully) speaks up and says, “Will the car even roll down the ramp?  Won’t it just fall?”  Thank you very much…. yes, we are going to call it free fall.


I DO NOT call this the acceleration due to gravity… We have not defined ‘gravity’ yet so why would I define an acceleration based on something we know nothing about?

To gather data, I used playing cards to put the students in groups.  Odds gathered data today while the evens worked on the practice sheet, tomorrow we switch places.  I use three freefall timers (picture to come tomorrow) and one group uses our high speed camera to do video analysis.  I hang an electromagnet from the ceiling and attach a bright yellow softball (it has a metal washer taped to it). The electromagnet is turned off and the ball drops.  To help with the data gathering, I also add a light bulb in a socket so the students can see the electromagnet going off and the ball just starting to drop.  Tomorrow I’ll include a video clip with the post.


General Physics

Today was a day that was a bit out of my comfort zone.  We talked about the curved mirror ray diagram assessment they took on Friday and we had three short curved mirror problems to WB.  That only took about 15 minutes total.  For the remaining time, the students made use of the additional study materials we posted on Schoology.  It was another set of curved mirror problems including ray diagrams, and two conceptual reviews.  The solutions were opened up later in the day. I explained to the students that they were in the best position to know exactly which objectives they still needed practice  on.. they were yellow or red on and that there was practice posted to help with each objective.  It was out of my comfort zone because I usually prefer to direct the review a bit more.  For the most part I was pleasantly surprised with how hard most of them worked, and the level of discussion that went on.  We’ll see tomorrow if this plan worked out like we hope it will.