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SHS Physics

Conservation of Momentum and Energy Lab

Conservation laws in physics have many applications, but perhaps none are more
important than conservation of momentum and energy. As you work through your prelab write up, make sure you address the following questions:
1. What is momentum and how is it calculated?
2. When can conservation of momentum be used in calculations (i.e., what
assumptions are made and what type of collisions)?
3. What is conservation of energy, when can it be applied and what equations need
to be used in conservation of momentum?
Today you will try to experimentally confirm conservation of momentum in inelastic and
elastic collisions as well as conservation of energy in elastic collisions.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN: The equipment used in this lab is very expensive and quite
delicate; the carts and tracks are designed to be as frictionless as possible, so please
handle them with care. If you drop or allow the carts to collide at high speed, you may
damage them. In particular, do not set the cart on the lab counter as it may roll off.
Turn the cart upside down and rest it on its top. The motion sensors are also sensitive,
and you should not allow the carts to run into the sensors. Please have one of your team
members monitor the carts in motion and stop them before they hit the sensors.
Equipment: Pasco 2 m dynamic cart track, 2 model ME-9454 and 2 model ME-9430
dynamic carts (or two ME-6950 carts), supplemental cart masses, 2 motion sensors, lap
top computer equipped with PASCO Capstone software, mass balance. You will need to
confirm the set up of your equipment is appropriate for the data you will need to

PART I Inelastic Collision

In the first part of the lab, you will investigate conservation of momentum for elastic
and ineslastic collisions. Slide one motion sensor on to each end of your track with the
transponder side facing the track. Make sure that the position switch on top of the
sensor is moved toward the narrow beam icon. Next align the sensor so it faces
straight down the track is direct parallel to the track. While you are setting up the
track, turn on the computer and log in (use student log in-no password is required).
Open the PASCO Capstone software (the icon is on the left hand side of the desktop)
and then click on the File tab on the top menu bar, then Open Experiment file, then
Conservation of Momentum and Energy AP. Your equipment should all be configured and
ready to use (two motion sensors, one plugged into Channel A 1&2 and one into Channel
B 1&2 in the interface box) and two velocity-time graphs should appear. One of these
graphs is for Channel A and one is for Channel B. You can follow the wires to ensure
which motion sensor is providing data for which graph.
You now are ready to collect data for the experiment. I have preset the recording
parameters for you equipment, and it should allow you to get enough data to complete
the experiment with no modifications. Your motion sensors will be gathering data at
40Hz, which means you will get 40 velocity data points every second. When you are
ready to begin the experiment, click on record and the data collection will not begin
for 2 seconds, and then it will automatically stop gathering data after three seconds.
You will see there is a countdown to let you know when the data collection starts.
In the first experiment, you will try to verify conservation of momentum for an
inelastic collision of known masses. Mass both of your ME-9430 (or ME-6950) carts on
the mass balance, and then set one (the target) somewhere toward the middle of the
track (if it rolls, your track is not levelyou may want to shim it with some paper shims
to level). Have a team member hold the other one steady about 15 to 20 cm from the
right hand sensor. Ensure that the Velcro spots are aligned so that the carts will stick
together upon collision. Have someone click on the start button on the computer and
when the counter reaches zero, the person holding the cart will gently shove it toward
the target cart. Be careful that you dont interfere with the motion sensormove out
the way once you have released the cart. They should stick together and coast toward
the left hand sensor. Have someone stop the carts just before they reach the left

sensor. You now should have the data you need to check for conservation of momentum.
Your two graphs will show the velocity of the two carts for the period before and
after the collision and you are all set for calculations.
You now have data for m1, m2, v1 and v. Use the tool bar on top of the graphs to add a
coordinates tool to exactly determine the velocity of the carts before and after the
collision. After you have recorded the data in your lab books, you may clear the data
from the graph for another trial by clicking on the Delete Last Data run icon at the
bottom of the graphs (it will make it easier to read the next trial). Complete a data
table for three trials in your lab book containing all the data and then show your
calculations for confirming conservation of momentum.
Next add the block mass to the target cart and repeat the experiment (three trials),
using conservation of momentum to determine the mass of the block. Once you have an
experimental value, mass the block and calculate a percent error.

Analysis Questions:
1. Why did one sensor report positive velocity and the other negative?
2. How did you determine the velocity of the cart before and after the collision
(i.e., how much of the data did you use, you had about 1 or 2 seconds of data on
either side of the collision). Explain why you chose the method you used.
3. What role did friction play in the accuracy of your dataexplain fully.
4. Compare your percent error of the unknown mass to the accuracy of the first
data set where you tried to confirm conservation of momentum with known
masses. Explain why they were similar or different.

PART II Elastic Collision

Switch carts so you are now using ME-9454 models (they will not stick). You may have
to propel the first cart at a slower velocity to achieve an elastic collisionif it is going
too fast it will bump the target cart.
Mass only the target cart and repeat the experiment (three trials) and determine the
mass of the first cart using a) conservation of momentum and the b) conservation of

energy. You may use the same data for both sets of calculationsrecord the data in a
table in your lab book and show all calculations. Once you experimentally determined
the mass of the cart, use the mass balance to find the actual mass and calculate
percent error for both momentum and energy.

5. Which techniquemomentum or energy, gave the more accurate result? Explain
6. List at least two sources of error (other than friction), how they affect the
calculations and explain how we could try to control them in the future.