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written by Pierre Sokolsky
This is a set of three web-based labs for grades 7-9 relating to the energy of moving objects. In the first two labs, students use a virtual catapult to hurl objects of varying mass, from a pebble to a wrecking ball. Initial velocity can be changed with a slider. After each toss, a table is displayed showing the mass in kilograms, the speed in meters/second, and the energy in Joules. The activities are designed to clarify the relationships among mass, initial speed of object thrown, and energy. The final lab  introduces very small objects moving at high speeds: a paramecium, bacteria, virus, proton, and electron. The lab guides students to challenge their own thinking as they see that different rules seem to govern the movement of these tiny objects.

Editor's Note: Lab 3 is expected to create conflict in the student's mind about the concepts they just learned in Labs 1 and 2. Your students will actually be exploring Special Relativity, where the laws of Newtonian mechanics do not apply. Students who struggled with the concepts in Labs 1 and 2 may be unable to complete Lab 3 without extensive teacher intervention.

This item is part of a larger collection of interactive Java labs developed for use in middle school and high school.  See Related items on this page for a link to the full collection.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= Projectile Motion
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
Education Foundations
- Cognition
= Cognition Development
= Cognitive Conflict
- Middle School
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 1997 The University of Utah
catapult, cognitive dissonance, energy, nanoscale , projectile, relativity, special relativity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created September 19, 2010 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 2, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
July 31, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1A. The Scientific Worldview
  • 6-8: 1A/M2. Scientific knowledge is subject to modification as new information challenges prevailing theories and as a new theory leads to looking at old observations in a new way.

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H1. The change in motion (direction or speed) of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to the mass.

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (1993 Version)


B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 1B (6-8) #1.  Scientists differ greatly in what phenomena they study and how they go about their work. Although there is no fixed set of steps that all scientists follow, scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant evidence, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected evidence.


D. The Structure of Matter
  • 4D (9-12) #2.  The nucleus, a tiny fraction of the volume of an atom, is composed of protons and neutrons, each almost two thousand times heavier than an electron. The number of positive protons in the nucleus determines what an atom's electron configuration can be and so defines the element. In a neutral atom, the number of electrons equals the number of protons. But an atom may acquire an unbalanced charge by gaining or losing electrons.
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Record Link
AIP Format
P. Sokolsky, (1997), WWW Document, (http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/KineticEnergy/).
P. Sokolsky, ASPIRE: Kinetic Energy, (1997), <http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/KineticEnergy/>.
APA Format
Sokolsky, P. (2008, July 31). ASPIRE: Kinetic Energy. Retrieved January 24, 2017, from http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/KineticEnergy/
Chicago Format
Sokolsky, Pierre. ASPIRE: Kinetic Energy. July 31, 2008. http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/KineticEnergy/ (accessed 24 January 2017).
MLA Format
Sokolsky, Pierre. ASPIRE: Kinetic Energy. 1997. 31 July 2008. 24 Jan. 2017 <http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/KineticEnergy/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Pierre Sokolsky", Title = {ASPIRE: Kinetic Energy}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {24 January 2017}, Month = {July 31, 2008}, Year = {1997} }
Refer Export Format

%A Pierre Sokolsky
%T ASPIRE: Kinetic Energy
%D July 31, 2008
%U http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/KineticEnergy/
%O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Sokolsky, Pierre
%D July 31, 2008
%T ASPIRE: Kinetic Energy
%V 2017
%N 24 January 2017
%8 July 31, 2008
%9 application/flash
%U http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/KineticEnergy/

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