Velocity in Action

by Heather Burns, HA senior

Racing down the hallway, picking up speed, dodging and weaving through people’s feet -- the pull-back cars just can’t be beat (except for the occasional wall)! We started our engines to test how far we would go and how fast we did it. Several predictions were made, but only one prevailed - these cars zoomed beyond compare, and so did the lesson!

Acceleration, speed, and velocity were all utilized for concepts of motion in Mr. Windhorst’s physics course. Distance, time, and direction were calculated by a meter stick, stopwatch, and compass respectively. Students presented their knowledge of motion by taking distance divided by time while determining direction. The students broke off into groups and performed active roles contributing to the hypothetical reasoning and the execution of the experiment. This information was very useful in the understanding the concepts. The students timed from the beginning to the end of the cars movement. Shortly after the pull-back cars raced and rumbled up and down the hallways, the students finally headed back to the classroom to calculate their findings.

Following the test trials, students returned to the classroom to calculate and configure the equations. They compared their results with the other teams’ results from both A and B weeks and came to an agreement: Of the experiments conducted -- winding the car to go up the ramp, on a flat plane, or down the ramp -- the fastest trial that they reviewed was when the cars darted down the ramp. On the other hand, the slowest trial that they analyzed was the pull-back car going up the ramp. When they tested this trial, students learned the concept of deceleration or negative acceleration. Lastly, the third trial was on a flat surface which validated that there is minimal friction, but the car remained at a constant speed until the car screeched to a halt to avoid a fender bender or, most often, a crash into the wall. These trials were performed the same way, but all in different locations.

Moving up and down the hallways ramps changed the angle of motion, which resulted in a change in speed. Mr. Windhorst and his students had a lot of fun learning and completing this lab together. Acceleration, speed, and velocity were learned by not only a classroom lesson, but also a hands-on lab experience. The students enjoyed the exciting finishes to the cars’ movement while measuring fundamental components of motion.