Sep 19th, 2013 — Physical Science

Introducing Force and Newton's Laws

With some assistance from some technology teaching tools, you can easily introduce your students to the concepts of force and Newton’s laws. Using just textbooks and a Force Sensor, you can provide your students with a quick hands-on activity that can introduce them to forces and the concept of inertia.

We know from our daily experiences that heavier objects require more force to move than objects with less inertia. Quantify this concept by having students measure how much force is needed to move textbooks.

First, set up the Force Sensor so it is set to collect data from “pushing”. Then calibrate it by simply pressing the “zero” button. Next, start collecting data while slowly pushing a textbook with the Force Sensor. Repeat this process with two and then three books.

The image below shows the average force needed to steadily move one, two, and three textbooks. The average force needed to move the books can be shown quickly using the statistics tool, (just highlight the data you want to calculate the mean for). Using the journal tool, students can document their results and answer questions you have given them for the lab. Images can also be added to the page if students are using a tablet or computer that has a camera to show their experimental set up.

Data from this activity and the statistics can be calculated in just a few minutes. All your students will need is the mass of the textbooks to help them look for the relationship between an object’s inertia and the force needed to move the object.

Here are a few ways to extend the activity:

  • See what affect different surfaces have on the amount of friction that is experienced by the books.
  • Have students calculate the acceleration of the books using Newton’s 2nd Law.
  • Add a Motion Sensor to collect data on the velocity of the books.
  • Use two Force Sensors opposing each other to explore Newton’s 3rd Law.

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