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3/7/2017 ExperimentProbleminKinematics:HowMuchDoesitTaketoWintheRace?

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ExperimentProbleminKinematics:HowMuchDoesitTaketoWintheRace?
ThispageauthoredbyKathleenA.Harper,TheOhioStateUniversity,basedonactivitiesdonebymanyotherinstructors,includingAlanVanHeuvelen,
RutgersUniversity,andJasonCervenec,ThomasWorthingtonHighSchool
AuthorProfile
Thisactivityhasbenefitedfrominputthroughareviewandsuggestionprocess.

Thisactivityhasbenefitedfrominputfromfacultyeducatorsbeyondtheauthorthroughareviewandsuggestionprocessasapartofanactivity
developmentworkshop.Workshopparticipantswereprovidedwithasetofcriteriaagainstwhichtheyevaluatedeachothers'activities.Forinformation
aboutthecriteriausedforthisreview,seehttp://serc.carleton.edu/sp/compadre/devactivities/reviewcriteria.html.

Thispagefirstmadepublic:Aug27,2007

ThismaterialisreplicatedonanumberofsitesaspartoftheSERCPedagogicServiceProject
Summary

Inthisactivity,studentsarepresentedwithtwoobjects(typicallycars)thathavedifferentconstantspeedsandthatwillraceeachother.Thestudents
mustdeterminewhichobjectwillwintherace,aswellashowmuchtimeelapsesbetweentheobjectscrossingthefinishline.Notallofthecharacteristics
ofthesituationaregiventothestudentsimmediatelytheymusttakeandrecordsomedatatodeterminetheanswer.Theactivityisflexibleinthatthe
amountofinformationprovidedcanbevariedbytheinstructoraccordingtohowmuchdatacollectionsheorhewouldlikethestudentstodo.Itisalso
flexibleinthatitcanbedoneinavarietyofsettingsandtheprocedurescanbeadjustedaccordingtothesettingandnumberofstudents.

LearningGoals
Thegoalsforthisactivityaretwofold:

Contentrelatedgoals:
Studentssuccessfullycompletingthisactivityshoulddemonstrateanunderstandingof
position,
time,and
speed

astheyapplytotwoobjectsmovingsimultaneouslyalongthesameaxis.

Processgoals:
Sincethisisan'experimentproblem'(asdefinedbyVanHeuvelenetal)itencouragesstudentstodeveloprealworldproblemsolvingskillssuchas
addingdefinitiontoaproblem
planningasolutionpriortodivingintotheproblem
dividingtheproblemintosubproblems(fractionation)
practicinggooddatatakingskills

Notethatitisnotrealistictoexpectstudentstodeveloptheseprocessskillsfromthisactivityalonetheywillneedrepeatedexposuretotheseprocesses.
ContextforUse
Educationallevel:highschoolorintroductorycollege
Setting:laborlecture
Timerequired:varies,dependinguponamountofprovidedinformationandsettinganywherefrom10to50minutes(variationsaredescribedinthe
teachingtipsbelow.)
Specialequipment:2constantvelocityobjects,metersticks,stopwatches,calculators
Prerequisiteknowledge:position,velocity,time,andtherelationshipbetweenthesequantities
DescriptionandTeachingMaterials
(Theseinstructionsarewrittenforaninteractivelecturesetting.VariationsonthisarediscussedinmoredetailintheTeachingNotesandTipsthatfollow.)
1.Beforeclass,measurethespeedsoftwoconstantspeedobjects(typicallymotorizedcarssomeexamplesarelistedintheresourcesand
referencessectionbelow).Baseduponthis,chooseareasonablelengthofraceforwhichonewillbeattheotherbyaminimumofacoupleof
seconds.
2.Stillbeforeclass,ifnecessary,usetapeorsomeothermarkertoindicatethestartingandfinishinglinesfortheraceintheclassroom.Runthe
raceanddeterminethemarginofvictory.
3.Inclass,tostarttheactivity,showthestudentsthetwoobjectsmoving.
4.Elicitfromthemthattheybothappeartomovewithconstantvelocityandthatthevelocitiesappeartobedifferent.Sampleguidingquestionsfor
thismightinclude:
Whatcanyoutellmeaboutthemotionofthisobject?
Howarethemotionsofthetwoobjectsthesame?
howarethemotionsofthetwoobjectsdifferent?
5.Next,tellthestudentsthatyouwouldliketoracetheobjectsagainsteachother,butthatbeforeyouactuallyhavetherace,you'dlikethemtotell
youwhichonewillwin,andbyhowmanyseconds.Tellthemtoworkinsmallgroupstofigureoutwhatinformationtheyneedtosolvethis
problem.Somesamplewaystophrasethisquestioninclude:
Whatinformationdoweneedtoanswerthequestion?
Whatdoweneedtomeasure?
Whatdatadoweneedtotake?
Whywouldknowingthatinformationbeuseful?
6.Aftertheyhavehadafewminutestoidentifywhattheyneedtoknow,askthemtotellyouwhatthatneededinformationis.Tellthemalsothat
youmayknowsomeoftheinformationalready,butthattheywillhavetofigureoutsomeoftheinformationasaclass.

Theinformationneededis:
Thespeedofthefirstobject
Thespeedofthesecondobject
Thedistanceoftherace.

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3/7/2017 ExperimentProbleminKinematics:HowMuchDoesitTaketoWintheRace?
7.Notethatittakesafairamountoftimetomeasurethespeedofbothobjects.Inalecturesetting,youwillprobablywanttoprovidethemwiththe
speedofatleastoneobject,ifnotboth.Forinformationthatyouwantthemtodetermineviadatatakingandanalysis,somesamplequestions
thatyoumightusetoassisttheminverbalizingtheprocessforyouinclude:
Whatequipmentshouldyouusetotakethedata?
Howmanymeasurementsshouldwetake?
(Measuringthedistancefortheraceisarelativelyquickmeasurementtohavethestudentstakeintheclassaskforacoupleofstudentstocome
upandexecutetheprocedureundertheguidanceoftherestoftheclass.)Aquestionthatyoumaywanttoaskafterthegrouphastakena
measurementis
Doyoubelievethatmeasurement?Shouldyou?
Forinformationthatyouaregoingtoprovidetothemuponrequest,alsoaskthemwhatprocesstheywouldgothroughtodetermineit.Then
whenthey'veidentifiedanappropriatemethod,saysomethinglike,"That'sexactlywhatIdid,andIcameupwith0.30m/s."
8.Oncetheclasshasthedatatheyneed,givethemafewminutestoperformthecalculationsanddeterminetheiranswers.Walkaroundtheclass
andlistentothestudentconversationstogetasenseofwhenyouhavegiventhemenoughtime.
9.Polltheclassfortheiranswers.Askafewrepresentativegroupstodescribetheirprocess.Iftherearevariationsinprocedure,haveadiscussionto
determinewhetherthemethodsareequivalentordifferent,andiftheyaredifferent,whatthedifferencesare.Givegroupsachancetochange
theirmindsaboutthecalculationmethod.Somesamplequestionshereinclude:
Didanyoneelseapproachthisdifferently?
Howmanyothergroupsusedasimilarstrategy?
Cansomeonefromanothergroupparaphrasewhatthisgroupjustsaid?
Doesthisanswerseemtobereasonable?
10.Runtheraceandhavestudentstakethedatatoseewhatthe"right"answeris.
11.Ifsomestudentsdidnotarriveatthecorrectanswer,revisitthecalculationstohelpthestudentsdeterminewhereerrorsweremade.

TeachingNotesandTips
Thereareanumberofvariationsonthisbasicsituation.Hereareafew:
1.Ratherthanaskingforthetimeelapsedbetweenthetwoobjectscrossingthefinishline,askfortheseparationbetweentheobjectswhenthefirst
onewinstherace.Thistendstobealittleharderforstudentstomeasurewhentheyruntheracetowardtheendoftheactivity,butisnottoo
hard.
2.Whenpresentingtheclasswiththeinitialproblem,askthem,"whichobjectwillwintheobject,andbyhowmuch?"Thisleadstoadiscussionof
whatismeantby"howmuch,"whichcouldeitherbetheamountoftimeorthedistancebetweentheobjectswhenthefirstobjectcrossesthe
finishline.
3.Theinstructorcanchoosetomakestudentsdeterminethespeedsofoneorbothoftheobjects.Thiswillmaketheactivityrunclosertothe50
minutemark.
4.Tomakethetaskmoredifficult,thequestioncouldbealteredsuchthatyouwanttofindouthowmuchofaheadstart(eithertimewiseor
distancewise)theslowerobjectneedstohavesothatthetwoobjectswillcrossthefinishlineatthesametime.
5.Amajorvariationonthisistosetupthesituationsothatthetwoobjectsaremovingtowardeachotherandasktheclasstodeterminewhere
theywillcollide.(Thestudentstendtoenjoyseeingthecollision.)
6.Inalaboratorysetting,eachlabgroupcouldbeaskedtodotheentiretaskasagradedactivity,withthegradedependinguponhowclosetothe
actualresulttheiransweris.
7.Notealsothatthisproblemcanbesolvedeithermathematicallyorgraphically.

Assessment
First,itshouldbenotedthatthisactivityitselfcanbeusedasanassessmentofwhetherstudentsknowhowtoanalyzethemotionoftwoconstant
velocityobjects.

Second,options#1,4,and5presentedintheTeachingNotesandTipsabovecouldworkasassessmentsofthis.

Inalabsetting,eachgroupofstudentscanbeassessedasdescribedin#6above.Notethatifyoudothisandyouarerunningseveralsectionsoflabthat
youmaywanttohaveavarietyofracelengthsandvehiclespeedsavailable,sothatyoucancreatevariationsinthefinalanswer.

Inalecturesetting,theinstructorcandosomeformativeassessmentoftheclassingeneral,dependinguponwhatissaidinthegroupdiscussions,as
wellaswalkingaroundandobservingtheclasswhiletheyarediscussingintheirsmallgroups.

Amoreformalassessmentispossiblebyaskingquestionsonquizzes,exams,orhomeworkinvolvingmultipleobjectsmovingatconstantspeeds.Some
examplesofquestionslikethiscanbefoundinGlencoePhysics:PrinciplesandProblems(2005edition),chapter2,problems5759(p.53).
ReferencesandResources
onstudentunderstandingofvelocity
D.E.TrowbridgeandL.C.McDermott,"Investigationofstudentunderstandingoftheconceptofvelocityinonedimension,"Am.J.Phys.48,10201028
(1980).

onexperimentproblems
A.VanHeuvelen,"Experimentproblemsformechanics,"ThePhysicsTeacher33,276280(1999).
A.VanHeuvelen,L.D.Allen,andP.Mihas,"Experimentproblemsforelectricityandmagnetism,"ThePhysicsTeacher37,482485(1999).

Manyinstructorsalsorefertoanexerciseofthissortasalabpracticum.

examplesofconstantvelocityvehicles
Youcanpickupavarietyofbatterypoweredcarsatatoystorethatmayworkwellforthis.Youcouldalsoorderfromaphysicsequipmentsupplier,such
asoneofthefollowing:

ConstantspeedbuggyfromThePhysicsToolbox(itemM09F,http://www.vast.org/vip/VAST2010/ConstantSpeedBuggy/index.html)

Pascovariablespeedmotorizedcart(itemME9781,http://store.pasco.com/pascostore/showdetl.cfm?&DID=9&Product_ID=1456&Detail=1)

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