Active Physics Chapters

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Chapter 1: Driving the Roads

Chapter Challenge: Students demonstrate their knowledge of the physics of driving by making a presentation to a board of driving instructors.

Through a series of activities, students learn about average and instantaneous speed and then connect information about reaction time, speed, and velocity to tailgating. They explore acceleration, positive and negative, in the context of the time required to bring a vehicle to a stop and decision-making at a yellow light. They also learn about centripetal force and acceleration and relate it to driving on curves.

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Chapter 2: Physics in Action

Chapter Challenge: Students develop a 2–3 minute voice-over for a sports clip explaining the physics involved in the sport.

Students measure motion and learn about speed and acceleration. Through explorations, they learn about force and “discover” Newton’s three laws of motion and how they relate to sports. They also investigate acceleration due to gravity as well as physical and mathematical models of projectile motion. They explore friction, calculate the coefficient of friction, and consider the effect of friction in sports. Then they learn about gravitational potential energy, kinetic energy, spring potential energy, the law of conservation of energy, and how energy and work are related.

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Chapter 3: Safety

Chapter Challenge: Students design a safety system to protect passengers during a collision.

Students use Newton’s first law to describe what happens during a collision and apply the concept of pressure to the design of a seatbelt. They observe the effect of spreading a force over a greater distance and explain their observations using the work-energy theorem. After exploring the effects of a rear-end collision, they use Newton’s laws to describe how whiplash occurs. Students investigate the law of conservation of momentum by analyzing collisions. They measure velocity and force on a vehicle during impact and describe the relationship between impulse and momentum.

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Chapter 4: Thrills and Chills

Chapter Challenge: Students modify the design of a roller coaster to meet the needs of a specific group of riders.

Students use gravitational and potential energy to explain their observations of a ball rolling down an incline and a swinging pendulum. They investigate spring potential energy and explore the law of conservation of energy. They determine the relationship between gravitational force and distance. Students learn about the difference between mass and weight, and determine Hooke’s law and calculate spring potential energy. Newton’s second law for net forces is used to analyze a free-body diagram for objects undergoing acceleration. Students investigate centripetal force and apply it to a roller coaster. They pull a mass up different routes to a fixed height and develop a definition of work and its relationship to power. Students develop concept maps on force and energy and explore examples of each on a roller coaster.

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Chapter 5: Let us Entertain You

Chapter Challenge: Students design a sound and light show.

Students connect vibrations and waves to sound. They observe transverse and longitudinal waves and investigate the relationship between speed and amplitude, medium on wave speed, the principle of superposition, and the relationship between speed and frequency, in order to construct instruments for their sound show. To design their light show, students explore reflected light, plane and curved mirrors, refraction of light, the effect of lenses, and color.

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Chapter 6: Electricity for Everyone

Chapter Challenge: Students design an appliance package for a family home that is powered by a wind-driven generator.

Students explore current, voltage, and resistance in parallel and series circuits. They create a simple fuse and calculate load limits of a household circuit. Students investigate heat transfer and learn about the laws of thermodynamics and entropy. They calculate the efficiency of various water heaters and apply this to designing their appliance package.

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Chapter 7: Toys for Understanding

Chapter Challenge: Students develop a toy that uses a motor or generator, and an instruction manual for assembly.

Students explore the relationship between electricity and magnetism. They test the strength of different electromagnets and construct and operate a DC motor. They construct a galvanometer and use a permanent magnet and a solenoid to induce a current. They explore producing an electric generator and learn the difference between AC and DC. Maxwell and his discovery that all electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light is discussed.

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Chapter 8: Atoms on Display

Chapter Challenge: Students develop a museum exhibit to acquaint visitors with aspects of the atom.

Students learn about the quantization of a charge, investigate spectral lines, and learn about Bohr’s model. The wave and particle nature of light is explored, the Schrodinger wave equation is introduced non-mathematically, and the dual wave and particle nature of electrons is also discussed. Students learn about the strong force and Feynman diagrams. They explore radioactive decay and half-life using randomly tossed marked cubes. They are introduced to Einstein’s equation and use it to calculate energy liberated by the conversion of mass. Students also explore nuclear fission and fusion reactions.

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Chapter 9: Sports on the Moon

Chapter Challenge: Students develop a proposal for NASA by adapting or inventing a sport that can be played on the Moon.

Students explore acceleration due to gravity, Newton’s second law, projectile motion, conservation of energy, friction, the period of a pendulum, air resistance, and terminal velocity, and apply these concepts to develop their sport to be played on the Moon.