This java applet simulates an air-track glider undergoing constant acceleration due to a hanging mass. The user can change the mass of the glider, the mass of hanging mass, the coefficient of friction between the glider and the track, and the distance over which the cart's travel is timed. The applet simulates the motion, and times how long it takes the glider to get to the point set by the user. The applet allows the user to take distance vs time data points.
Understanding the relationship between force and acceleration, Newton's Second Law, and motion with constant acceleration.
Target Student Population:
Secondary and lower division undergraduate
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Kinematic equations in one dimension and Newton's Laws.
Type of Material:
Simulation, demo, or student activity.
Student Activity, Virtual Lab
Java 1.4 or higher.
Evaluation and Observation
This is a well-executed simulation of a classic introductory laboratory experiment. Acceleration can be obtained by timing the movement of the wagon through a known distance. The illustrated rate of motion corresponds well with the actual acceleration of the system.
The acceleration is calculated by the applet. This limits its use as a simulated lab where an instructor might wish for students to make this calculation.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This applet is sufficiently flexible to allow a thorough exploration of the topic.
The applet, perhaps, gives away too much information to make this a learning exercise for the student because it shows a graph of the motion and gives the acceleration. These are things one might want the student to do for themselves.
The data recording problem mentioned in Ease of Use affects the effectiveness.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The applet is attractive and easy to use and the interactivity is straight forward.
The record data option cannot be used to record multiple data points obtained by varying the wagon mass, the hanging mass, or the coefficient of friction. Changing the parameters requires using the "Reset" button, which also clears the chart. Students can record the data by hand.