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written by the NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project
This experiment demonstrates Newton's Second Law of Motion by showing the reaction of a rolling car to increased mass and initial velocity. Students build the vehicle out of wooden blocks, wood screws, rubber bands, matchsticks, and fishing sinkers. By doing repeated trials of the experiment, it will become clear that the distance the car travels depends on the number of rubber bands used and the mass of the block (mass is increased by adding sinkers).

This resource was developed by the NASA Glenn Research Center Aerospace Education Services Project.
Editor's Note: The experiment is an excellent way to explore Newton's Second Law and to integrate engineering design in the secondary classroom. Note: The motion is achieved by using a lighted match to burn through a string holding the rubber band in place. Teachers may wish to substitute another item for the open flame.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Newton's Second Law
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Laboratory
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- Laboratory
- New teachers
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© 2004 NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created August 18, 2004 by Melanie Carter
Record Updated:
March 14, 2014 by Caroline Hall

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 6-8: 3A/M3. Engineers, architects, and others who engage in design and technology use scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. They also usually have to take human values and limitations into account.

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 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.

11. Common Themes

11A. Systems
  • 6-8: 11A/M2. Thinking about things as systems means looking for how every part relates to others. The output from one part of a system (which can include material, energy, or information) can become the input to other parts. Such feedback can serve to control what goes on in the system as a whole.
11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M3. Different models can be used to represent the same thing. What model to use depends on its purpose.
  • 6-8: 11B/M6. A model can sometimes be used to get ideas about how the thing being modeled actually works, but there is no guarantee that these ideas are correct if they are based on the model alone.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 6-8: 12C/M3. Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices.
  • 6-8: 12C/M5. Analyze simple mechanical devices and describe what the various parts are for; estimate what the effect of making a change in one part of a device would have on the device as a whole.
12D. Communication Skills
  • 6-8: 12D/M6. Present a brief scientific explanation orally or in writing that includes a claim and the evidence and reasoning that supports the claim.

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (MS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. (MS-PS2-2)

Engineering Design (MS-ETS1)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (MS-ETS1-2)
  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success. (MS-ETS1-3)
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved. (MS-ETS1-4)

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Analyze data to support the claim that Newton's second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration. (HS-PS2-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
  • Newton's second law accurately predicts changes in the motion of macroscopic objects. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions. (6-8)
  • When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models. (9-12)
  • Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models. (9-12)
Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology (K-12)
  • Science and engineering complement each other in the cycle known as research and development (R&D). (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings. (6-8)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (6-8)
    • Undertake a design project, engaging in the design cycle, to construct and/or implement a solution that meets specific design criteria and constraints. (6-8)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
    • Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation of phenomena and solve design problems, taking into account possible unanticipated effects. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
    • Develop a model to generate data to test ideas about designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs. (6-8)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions. (6-8)
    • Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions. (6-8)

NGSS Nature of Science Standards (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (6-8)
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
  • Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions. (6-8)

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.


Topic: Dynamics: Forces and Motion
Unit Title: Newton's Second Law & Net Force

This experiment gives kids a concrete way to explore Newton's Second Law of Motion by doing timed trials on a "car" built out of wooden blocks, wood screws, fishing sinkers, rubber bands, and matchsticks. They can increase the mass of the car by adding sinkers and increase the propulsion by adding rubber bands.....they will discover that the distance traveled depends on the number of rubber bands and the mass of the block.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project, (2004), WWW Document, (http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/newton_car.html).
AJP/PRST-PER
NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project, NASA: Newton Car, (2004), <http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/newton_car.html>.
APA Format
NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project. (2004). NASA: Newton Car. Retrieved October 26, 2014, from http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/newton_car.html
Chicago Format
NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project. NASA: Newton Car. 2004. http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/newton_car.html (accessed 26 October 2014).
MLA Format
NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project. NASA: Newton Car. 2004. 26 Oct. 2014 <http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/newton_car.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project", Title = {NASA: Newton Car}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {26 October 2014}, Year = {2004} }
Refer Export Format

%Q NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project
%T NASA: Newton Car
%D 2004
%U http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/newton_car.html
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project,
%D 2004
%T NASA: Newton Car
%V 2014
%N 26 October 2014
%9 text/html
%U http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/TRC/Rockets/newton_car.html


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