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Name of Lesson:

Newton’s Second Law

Grade Level: 11-12 Subject: Physics Prepared by: Mark Smith Overview and Purpose:

This lesson will be a laboratory experiment exploring Newton’s second law of motion. It will

explore the difference between the theoretical and experimental values of a cart’s acceleration. Students will have a car on a table attached to a hanging mass

Educational Standards

(These are the Illinois state standards that would be hit during this laboratory)

11.A.4c Collect, organize and analyze data accurately and precisely.12.D.4a Explain

and predict motions in inertial and accelerated frames of reference. 11.A.5c Conduct systematic controlled experiments to test the selected hypotheses.

11.A.4d Apply statistical methods to the data to reach and support conclusions.

11.A.5d Apply statistical methods to make predictions and to test the accuracy of

results. 12.D.5a Analyze factors that influence the relative motion of an object (e.g., friction,

wind shear, cross currents, potential differences) 12.D.5b Analyze the effects of gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces on a physical system.Objectives:

At the end of this lesson, the student will be able to:

compare and contrast the theoretical acceleration to the experimental acceleration.

describe the graphs of displacement vs. time, velocity vs. time, and acceleration vs.

time of an accelerating object. compare and contrast the graphs of carts with different masses or a different

accelerating force. calculate the the experimental and theoretical value of acceleration of an object

being pulled by an accelerating force. analyze the data to find the differences between theoretical information and

experimental information. rewrite and substitute values into the equations given to solve for acceleration

velocity and percent error. predict possible accelerations for masses not used.

Materials Needed:

Android smartphones (2 per group)

string (approximately 3 m per group)

one physics cart (1 per group)

inclined plane with pulley on the end (1 per group)

table at least 1 m high (1 per group)

meterstick or free ruler app from the market(1 per group)

assorted masses

equipment to place phones and keep them stationary at the start and the finish

(dependant on what is available) Mass hanger for slotted masses (1 per group)

Other Resources:

Physics Gizmo app from Google Play (free)

Computer, tablet, or smartphone with some form of data plotting app or program to plot graphs of the collected data



Newton’s 2 nd Law to calculate theoretical acceleration Force = Mass x Acceleration



To calculate Velocity you will use Velocity = displacement/time

Kinematic Equation to calculate experimental acceleration V f 2 =V i 2 + 2a∆d

4. relative error = Verification:
relative error =






The student will complete pre-lab questions that gauge their understanding of objectives of the lab. The pre-lab will also allow the instructor to gauge the level of understanding the student gains from the laboratory.

The students will record all there data in data tables

The student will show their work for calculated values and record them in a table

The student will also record all graphs created and hand them in with the lab write up.

The student will answer post lab questions which address the objectives stated above and incorporate them into a post lab write up.


The activity will take approximately 45 minutes of class time.

  • 1. Create a set of pre-lab questions to address the objectives of the lab and assign it for homework the day before the lab.

  • 2. Break into even groups of at least 3 members apiece.

  • 3. Gather the necessary materials

  • 4. Set the inclined plane flat on a table so that the pulley is past the edge of the table.

  • 5. Open the “Physics Gizmo App” on both phones and be sure they are paired.

  • 6. Determine a start and end point on the inclined plane and set one phone at each point so that the cart will set off the timer

  • 7. Cut a piece of string for to attach the cart to the hanging mass. The string should be just long enough so the hanger rests just before the pulley when the cart is set at the start line.

  • 8. Be sure the distance the hanging mass is going to fall is longer than the start/end line distance.

  • 9. Measure the distance between the start and the finish line. Record.

    • 10. Measure the mass of the cart and choose a mass for the hanging mass. Record the data.

    • 11. Measure the length of the card that will be fixed to the cart and be used to trigger the phone timers. Record the data

    • 12. Place the cart at the start and start the app for the phone.

    • 13. Release the cart and record the times from the phones.

    • 14. Repeat steps 12 and 13 for three more trials and record the data.

    • 15. Average the trials and record the data.

    • 16. Change the hanging mass for 5 more different hanging masses.

    • 17. Do three trials for each hanging mass and record the data.

    • 18. Repeat steps 12 -16 but change the mass of the cart instead and record all the data.

  • 19. Calculate the velocities of all the carts from the data and record the data.

  • 20. Calculate the theoretical and experimental values of the acceleration from the calculated velocities and the known displacement.

  • 21. Calculate the relative error of the experimental acceleration vs. the theoretical acceleration.

  • 22. Graph displacement vs time, velocity vs time, and acceleration vs time graphs using a computer or an app. The graphs should us the data of the changing hanging mass, and another set of graphs should be created from the changing of the cart mass. ( There will be 2 sets of graphs)

  • 23. Create a set of questions for the post lab that address the objectives of the lab and also complements the pre-lab questions.

  • 24. Finish the post lab and require a conclusion of what was learned from the lab.


Safety notes:

It is important to remind the students to catch the car before running into the pulley

at the end of the board Remind the students to place a stop or pad underneath the weight that strikes the

floor. Remind the students not use to much mass as an accelerating force as compared to the mass of the car.

Other notes:

● Remind the students to show all work on calculations. ● Remind the students to record all data in an orderly fashion. Remind the students to record all observations.