Physics,  K-8

May the Force Sensor Be With You

December 16, 2015

The Force Sensor Awakens! With the release of the newest Star Wars film you can channel your own Jedi powers and awaken your students’ interest by studying the Force— or at least forces. As Obi Wan says, forces are all around us, and they are waiting to be studied. Thankfully we are talking about pushes and pulls, and not midichlorians. Though if we had a sensor to measure those, that would be awesome.

 The good (or bad) news is that your lab supplies list doesn’t call for a lightsaber. Your young Padawans can use a Force Sensor to construct their knowledge of this core physical science concept.

 To give your students a new hope as they learn about forces, they can quantify the relationship between force, mass and acceleration.  Student can mount a Force Sensor to a clamp and a stand, then suspend a variety of masses off of the hook of the Force Sensor.

 

Using SPARKvue software they can determine the relationship between the mass of the object and the force exerted on the sensor.

 

Students should see the direct relationship between force and mass. By applying linear fit they can see that the slope of the curve is the acceleration due to gravity. They just discovered Newton’s second law (F = ma) and they didn’t even need to consult the Jedi council!

By asking your students “What happens when an asteroid hits the Millennium Falcon?” you can start exploring interacting objects. While the possibility of navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1, they will see that every time there is an interaction the there is actually a pair of forces acting on the interacting objects. This can be explored by having the students use two Force Sensors simultaneously.  

Using the multi-y axis in SPARKvue, your student can see what happens with these action-reaction pairs.

Like the Jedi and the Sith, the students will see that the forces are equal and opposite, and they will have constructed Newton’s third law.

Through these simple activities, you are able to engage your students as they explore and explain the forces around them—no Jedi mind tricks required.

Maye the Force Sensor be with you!

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