Advanced Physics Through Inquiry 1 Teacher Guide


Teacher guide featuring 15 labs designed for Advanced Placement Physics 1.

Newton's Second Law

Lab Summary

Students use a motion sensor to determine the relationship between a system’s mass, acceleration, and the net force being applied to the system.


What factors affect the acceleration of an object or system? Experimentally determine the relationship between an object’s or system’s mass, acceleration, and the net force being applied to the object or system.


The Structured version of this activity is divided into two parts. In both parts, students use a dynamics track and cart and set up the system so a mass hangs over a pulley at the end of the level track, accelerating the cart as the mass falls to the floor. Using a motion sensor mounted at the end of the track opposite the pulley, students measure the cart's velocity as it accelerates, and then use the slope of the velocity versus time graph to determine the cart’s acceleration. Part 1 – Students keep the amount of hanging mass constant (constant net force) while varying the mass added to the top of the cart (varying system mass), and observe how this affects the acceleration of the system. Student data will show a linear relationship between acceleration and 1/mass. Part 2 – Students keep the system mass constant but change the net force acting on the system by moving mass from the top of the cart to the mass hanger, and observe how this change affects the acceleration of the system. Student data will show that the acceleration of the cart is proportional to the net force acting on the cart.
Combining these two proportionalities, students experimentally derive the equation that summarizes Newton’s Second Law.

Sensors / Equipment Used:

PASPORT Motion Sensor


The PASPORT Motion Sensor accurately measures position, velocity, and acceleration of a target. Can be used to track the motion of carts, balls, people and more.



Connect two 0.5m length tracks and use with PAScars to study motion.

PAScar (Set of 2)


A feature-rich dynamics cart for virtually friction-free motion on a dynamics track.

Dynamics Track End Stop (2 Pack)


Replacement end stops for the Dynamics Tracks.

Super Pulley Kit


This combination kit includes the parts to build either a Super Pulley with rod or Super Pulley with clamp.

Compact Cart Mass


This 250 gram mass fits in many carts while a force sensor is mounted.

Mass and Hanger Set


Polycarbonate mass hangers with steel posts and "holed' masses that will not fall off. 4 hangers and 27 weights ranging from 1/2 g to 100 g.

Black Thread (3 pack)


Black nylon thread.

Ohaus Scout SKX Balance 2000g


Combines range, resolution and low cost, making it ideal for the student science lab. 2000 g version.

Materials Used:

The Ohaus Scout Pro Balance 2000g listed in the Materials and Equipment section is for classroom use, not individual lab stations.

The Associated Bundle:

Advanced Physics 1 Starter Bundle


Equipment and sensor starter bundle for performing 8 experiments in the Advanced Physics through Inquiry 1 Teacher Guide.

Interface Required

This experiment may require software and an interface for data collection.