Modeling Physics – First Lab


Today was our first “real” experiment in my modeling Physics class.  Up to this point we have been analyzing data and working on basic math skills so we’d be ready for a real physics investigation.  Our first lab is an investigation of the center of mass of a system consisting of a meter stick and a metal object (varying sizes).  The kids took pretty quickly to the concept because they understood that the balance point of the ruler would be the point where there was equal mass on either side.  We had our pre-lab discussion yesterday and came up with the following:

I had asked them what would affect the center of mass of the system.  I made sure to use their words when writing the variables on the board.  We decided to use the position of the object as our independent variable.  Today, they took measurements and started their data displays.  They used Logger Pro to make graphs and find linear fit equations.  Here’s one of their boards:

Not quite finished. I can’t wait to see what else they add to it!

Next class, we will finish the whiteboards and then have our discussion.  I’m thinking about doing a circle up style discussion for this one.  So far, the circle up has been going well for me.  I have some board holders, so the students can have their hands free to jot down notes and whatnot.  I think it will be interesting to hear what they come up with.  What does that slope represent??  How do you know??

Seriously, I never thought that I would have students doing this level of math this early on in the year.  Yeah, they used Logger Pro to find the equation on this one, but we’ve done a few without the computers at all and they were fine.  So impressed by this current group!  I’m gonna see how far we can go with it (in Physics and Algebra); their next year teachers won’t know what hit em.


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