the Physics Education Technology Project
In this simulation, students can fire various objects out of a cannon, including a golf ball, football, pumpkin, human being, a piano, and a car. By manipulating angle, initial speed, mass, and air resistance, concepts of projectile motion come to light in a fun and game-like environment. Can you set the initial conditions so that you hit the target?
This item is part of a larger collection of interactive simulations developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET), all freely available from the PhET web site for incorporation into classes.
Editor's Note:See Related Materials for editor-recommended lessons to accompany this simulation. The first, "Air Resistance Lesson", is appropriate for middle school and includes scripted teacher discussion, content support, vocabulary lists, and modifiable worksheets. The second and third were developed for high school use and introduce basic trajectory and gravity with air resistance. All three lessons help learners stay on track as they use the PhET Projectile Motion simulation.
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.
9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
9-12: 11B/H1a. A mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.
Next Generation Science Standards
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)
Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (3-12)
Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth). (9-12)
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. (9-12)
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-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 and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)
Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments
Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)
MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
High School — Algebra (9-12)
Seeing Structure in Expressions (9-12)
A-SSE.1.b Interpret complicated expressions by viewing one or more of their parts as a single entity.
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion Unit Title: Motion in More Than One Dimension
Students can have fun exploring projectile motion as they interactively fire objects of varying mass from a cannon. Users may set initial velocity, angle, and air resistance. This resource would be teamed well with the Physics Classroom student tutorial on projectile motion (below).
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A PBL (Problem-Based Learning) activity for conceptual physics that asks learners to take the role of artillery sergeants to prepare a report on the factors influencing the path of a projectile fired from a cannon.