This simulation demonstrates how vectors are used to represent velocity. As students drive a virtual car on a flat surface, vectors change in response to the changes in speed and direction. A graph of speed vs. time is displayed in real-time as the car is maneuvered. This resource can be adapted for use in middle school, Physics First, and conceptual physics courses. Background information and discussion questions are also provided.
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Metadata instance created
December 10, 2008
by Caroline Hall
January 10, 2014
by Caroline Hall
Last Update when Cataloged:
March 17, 2008
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
2. The Nature of Mathematics
2B. Mathematics, Science, and Technology
9-12: 2B/H3. Mathematics provides a precise language to describe objects and events and the relationships among them. In addition, mathematics provides tools for solving problems, analyzing data, and making logical arguments.
4. The Physical Setting
6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
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/M2. Mathematical models can be displayed on a computer and then modified to see what happens.
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)
Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)
Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data. (6-8)
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 provide evidence for phenomena. (6-8)
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)
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments
High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)
Vector and Matrix Quantities (9-12)
N-VM.1 (+) Recognize vector quantities as having both magnitude and direction. Represent vector quantities by directed line segments, and use appropriate symbols for vectors and their magnitudes (e.g., v, |v|, ||v||, v).
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion Unit Title: Vectors
It can be difficult for beginning students to understand what a vector represents. This fun simulation allows them to watch vectors change as they drive a virtual car. Speed vs. Time is also displayed in a real-time companion graph.
PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration. (2008, March 17). Retrieved December 8, 2016, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/
%0 Electronic Source %D March 17, 2008 %T PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration %I WGBH Educational Foundation %V 2016 %N 8 December 2016 %8 March 17, 2008 %9 application/flash %U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/
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