Arbor Scientific is providing physics and physical science teachers with a collection of student lab activities for the study of Forces. Here you can browse lab activities by title and get teachers notes, student worksheets and a list of equipment and supplies needed for each activity.

Measuring Forces on an Inclined Plane

The Forces on an Inclined Plane Demonstrator is a new piece of physics equipment that can help make the abstract concepts of vector components of forces a tangible reality.  The innovation of the device is that it can be manipulated at will.  The angles can be set and reset quickly and the forces measured fairly quickly.

 

The device breaks the weight of an object into its component forces and allows for accurate data to be taken without having to set up clumsy and cumbersome ramps.

Each module comes with a built in scale (that measures how the Normal Force varies with the angle of inclination) and a parallel spring scale (that measures how the Parallel Force increases with the angle of inclination).

The module contains three unique features.  Built in scale, protractor, and spring scale  mount.

The measurements rely heavily on Balanced Forces.  Balanced Forces result in zero acceleration.  The action of gravity pulling the cart downhill is balanced by the equal and opposite action of the spring scale pulling the cart uphill.  Similarly, the component of the weight that is wasted in the hill is balanced by a reaction force which is perpendicular to the hill.  This is called the Normal Force (normal meaning perpendicular).

The sine and cosine relationships will come naturally out of well-calibrated data.

 

Lab Ideas

 

Create Graphs of Sine & Cosine:  The two forces measured by the device will trace out the sine and cosine curves (with an amplitude mg) as the device is rotated through angle.

 

Verify Specific Predictions:  Test out the special triangles: 45 45 90, 30 60 90, 3 4 5, to reinforce the behavior of the forces as the vary with tilt angle.  For example, 5N tilted to an angle of 37 degrees will have a normal force of 4N and a downhill force of 3N.  But what will happen for 53 degrees?

 

In an open-ended lab the students invent their own procedures and hypothesize the relationships without formal instruction.

 

Open-Ended Lab:  Have students try to invent the formulas for themselves.  Taking data from the digital balance and from the spring scale to determine the relationships from scratch.  This style of lab is consistent with the NGSS Standards and the AP Physics 1 curriculum.

 

 

 

Tips for Success

 

While taking measurements the user will have to “tare” the scale every time.  This is because the plate that sits on the scale is itself an object with weight.  Once the angle is selected, simply lift the cart and tare then reweigh.

 

It is also important to recalibrate the spring scale when making a measurement of the component downhill.

How it looks to correctly set 45 degrees.

 

Be careful not to confuse the screw that holds the up the incline plane with the angle indicator.  The angle is measured best by the lower edge of the plane being in line with the angle in question.

Forces On Inclined Plane Demonstrator

In Stock SKU: P4-1420
$69.00

 

 

James Lincoln

James Lincoln is an experienced physics teacher with graduate degrees in education and applied physics. He has become known nationally as a physics education expert specializing in original demonstrations, the history of physics, and innovative hands-on instruction.

The American Association of Physics Teachers and the Brown Foundation have funded his prior physics film series and SCAAPT’s New Physics Teacher Workshops.

Lincoln currently serves as the Chair of AAPT’s Committee on Apparatus and has served as President of the Southern California Chapter of the AAPT, as a member of the California State Advisory for the Next Generation Science Standards, and as an AP Physics Exam Reader.  He has also produced Videos Series for UCLA’s Physics Demos Project, Arbor Scientific, eHow.com, About.com, and edX.org.


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Momentum – Tailgated by a Dart

In this lab, students will learn to estimate the speed of an object by applying conservation of momentum to an inelastic collision. Energy is not lost its transferred from one object to another. Students will fire a dart into the back of the free rolling car and measure the distance of the car, calculate the speed of the dart and car, and measure the mass of the car and dart.


Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets.

Required Equipment

Tailgated by a Dart Kit, stopwatch, meterstick, balance

Tailgated by a Dart Kit

SKU: PX-9501
$8.50

Meter Stick 6 pack

In Stock SKU: P1-7072
$18.00

Economy Digital Balance

In Stock SKU: 02-7000
$115.00
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Levers and Balance

In the first lab, students will investigate the arrangements of weights that result in equilibrium (balance) in the lever system. They will find that both the force and the distance from the fulcrum are important in evaluating the system. This investigation leads naturally into a study of torque. In the next three labs, students will investigate the three classes of levers, organized according to the arrangement of the input and output forces and the fulcrum. They will compare the levers and determine which class is useful in different situations.

strong>Required Equipment

Physics Workshop Lever Lab, Workshop Stand, Hooked Masses, Spring scales

Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Lever Lab

In Stock SKU: P4-1600
$55.00

Hooked Mass Set

In Stock SKU: P1-1000
$85.00

Physics Workshop Stand

In Stock SKU: P4-1901
$95.00

Spring Scales (Complete Set)

In Stock SKU: 01-6970
$35.00
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Balloon Helicopter

Newton’s 3rd Law

The balloon helicopter is a classic toy with a simple design. The physics that explains its motion, though, can be difficult to explain. Students will observe the motion of the helicopter and study its construction before applying Newton’s 3rd Law twice to explain how it moves. Newton’s 3rd Law says that every force is opposed by an equal and opposite force. This lab will reinforce the idea that the two forces involved in this law are applied to different objects.

Required Equipment
Balloon Helicopter Kit

Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Balloon Helicopter Kit

In Stock SKU: P4-2350
$2.95
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Forces in Equilibrium


Students will place three different forces on a washer, and then arrange the forces so that the washer is in stable equilibrium in the center of the table. The forces must be visualized as vectors to understand how they can combine to produce a net force of zero.

Required Equipment
Round table or stool, Table Clamp Pulleys, Spring Scale Set, Hooked Masses, String, and Washer.

Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Table Clamp Pulley

In Stock SKU: P1-6115
$16.95

Spring Scales (Complete Set)

In Stock SKU: 01-6970
$35.00

Hooked Mass Set

In Stock SKU: P1-1000
$85.00

Roll of String

In Stock SKU: PX-2134
$3.90

The “Small round Table or Stool” required for this lab is probably readily available in your home or classroom. If not you just need a round stable platform that has an edge that will accept the opening of the table clamp pulleys and allow the weights to be suspended without interference of motion. Each lab group would need one table or stool.

The “Washer” required for this lab is readily available at your local hardware or home improvement supply store. Each lab group would need one one washer.

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Life-Size Collisions

Students will observe “explosions,” in which one student on a dynamics cart pushes another. From this, they will confirm the relationship between mass and velocity in determining momentum. They will also reinforce the idea of a closed system by experimenting with which student provides the pushing force. Then a single student on a cart will participate in inelastic and elastic collisions with a thrown weight. Students will observe that a faster throwing speed results in a faster cart speed for both collision types. They will also observe that more force is imparted to the objects in elastic collisions, and make conclusions about technological design based on that observation. 
Required Equipment
Human Dynamics Carts (2), Meter Stick or Measuring Tape, Sandbag or other weight
Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Human Dynamics Cart

In Stock SKU: P3-3617
$159.00

Meter Stick 6 pack

In Stock SKU: P1-7072
$18.00

 

The “Sandbag or other weight” required for this lab is readily available at your local hardware or building supplies store. One sand bag or weight could be shared among lab groups.

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Circular Motion and the Flying Pig

Pigs Fly

The Flying Pig provides students with a fun way to study circular motion. The pig and its string trace a conical pendulum and allow a perfect opportunity for calculations and measurements of circular motion. Students should be familiar with forces, specifically centripetal force, and how it is calculated. Students should also know the definitions of the fundamental trigonometric functions and how they can be used to find the sizes of parts of a right triangle.

Required Equipment
Flying Pig, Magnetic Ceiling Hooks, Stop Watch, Meter Stick.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Paul Robinson for his assistance in developing this lab. Paul has taught high school physics since 1974. He is a long-time member of AAPT and is currently Program Chair, Historian, and Section Representative. Paul is also the author of the Conceptual Physics lab manuals.

Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Flying Pig

In Stock SKU: P4-2165
$9.95

Magnetic Ceiling Hooks

In Stock SKU: P4-2166
$39.00

Digital Stopwatch Timer

In Stock SKU: 52-3200
$9.95

Meter Stick 6 pack

In Stock SKU: P1-7072
$18.00
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Equilibrium and Torque

levers
This lab has two activities. In the first, students investigate the arrangement of masses on a center-pivot lever required to produce balance. They will develop the idea that both force and lever arm produce torque, and that both quantities must be considered when trying to produce equilibrium. Force Vectors are used in diagrams. In the second (advanced) activity, students first use pencil and paper to predict an unknown mass from the arrangement used in the first activity. Then they arrange the lever to its off-center position and experimentally estimate the mass of the lever itself.

Required Equipment Physics Workshop Lever Lab, Workshop Stand, Hooked Masses

Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Lever Lab

In Stock SKU: P4-1600
$55.00

Hooked Mass Set

In Stock SKU: P1-1000
$85.00

Physics Workshop Stand

In Stock SKU: P4-1901
$95.00
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Collisions on an Air Track

In this lab using an Air Track, students will investigate elastic and inelastic collisions on an air track. Evaluate conservation of momentum and energy.

Required Equipment
Air Track, Timer and Photogates, Meter stick, Balance

Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Economy Air Track

In Stock SKU: P4-2710
$599.00

Meter Stick 6 pack

In Stock SKU: P1-7072
$18.00

Economy Triple Beam Balance

In Stock SKU: 02-7600
$96.00

Timer and Photogates

In Stock SKU: P4-1450
$279.00
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The Bouncing Dart

The Bouncing Dart is a specially designed pendulum with one elastic end and one inelastic end. Students will collide each end with a massive (1kg or more) cart, observing the pendulum’s motion and measuring the distance the cart moves. They will conclude that elastic collisions transfer more momentum.

Required Equipment
The Monkey and Hunter Lab set

Download Teacher Notes and Student Worksheets

Bouncing Dart

In Stock SKU: PX-1204
$27.00

Dynamics Carts (pair)

In Stock SKU: P3-3530
$55.00

Meter Stick 6 pack

In Stock SKU: P1-7072
$18.00

Ring Stand Base with Rod

In Stock SKU: 66-4220
$17.00
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