Graphing the Motion of Objects: Physics Lab

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  • 0:01 Motion Graphics
  • 0:38 Physics Lab Steps
  • 1:40 Data Analysis
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this lesson, you will be able to measure the motion of an object and plot position-time and velocity-time graphs based on your data. A short quiz will follow.

Motion Graphs

When a car speeds by you at 70 miles per hour, it's pretty difficult to figure out much detail about how it's moving. Your eyes are just not that accurate. To understand motion, you need to collect hard data, and the best way to analyze that data is through motion graphs.

When an object is moving at a constant velocity, there are two graphs you can use to describe the motion: a position-time graph and a velocity-time graph. If the object is accelerating, you can also create an acceleration-time graph. In today's lab, we're going to collect some data and use it to learn how to plot and analyze position-time and velocity-time graphs.

Physics Lab Steps

For this physics lab, you will need:

  • A battery-powered toy car
  • A flat surface with plenty of space
  • A stopwatch with a lap feature
  • A tape measure or ruler
  • Duct tape

Step 1: Mark out a starting point and finishing point on the floor using duct tape, as well as several positions in between. It's best to keep the distance between each piece of duct-tape consistent.

Step 2: Measure the distance from the start to each following piece of duct tape using a tape measure or ruler, and note it down.

Step 3: Position the car with its front wheels behind the starting-point's duct tape. Set the car going, and at the same time, start the stopwatch.

Step 4: Press the lap button on the stopwatch whenever the front wheels reach a new piece of duct tape, and then stop it finally when they touch the last piece.

Step 5: Repeat the measurements at least 5 times and note down the results. You can use a data table to record how much time it takes to travel each distance in every trial.

So now, if you haven't already, it's time to pause the video and get started.

Data analysis

Now that you have your data, it's time to analyze it. The first thing you need to do is take your trials and average them. You can do this by adding up all the times for each piece of duct tape and dividing it by the number of trials you completed.

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