Vector Addition: Determining the Displacement Between Two Points in Your School
In this physics indoor lab students calculate the displacement from one corner of the school to the other. They complete this task by using a meter stick and recording the distances and directions needed to get there. Once all of the distances and directions are recorded, the students draw a to-scale map using vectors. Once the entire map is completed they are then instructed to calculate the displacement and direction of corner to corner of the school.
1. Use data collection to solve a problem.
2. Successful transition from one-dimensional motion to two-dimensional motion.
1. The students will further develop the concept of adding vertical and horizontal vectors to determine displacement.
2. The concept of components can be used to determine displacement is reinforced.
Context for Use
1. One-dimensional motion
2. Basic Graphing Skills
3. Trigonometry (sine, cosine, tangent)
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)
Description and Teaching Materials
The following day the activity continues with a short discussion guided by the students about the previous day. A quick review of displacement should be completed and the instructor should attempt to, "seek advice" from the students in terms of determining the displacement. The students generally come up with an idea similar to, "making a triangle." Ask the students, "what is the best triangle to work with?" Answer: Right triangles. Lead students towards combining similar vectors. Get students to add all horizontal vectors and then all vertical vectors to create the "components." Introduce terminology of components and lead into "resultant." Solve for resultant (displacement) using trigonometry. Remind students vectors have both magnitude and direction and once magnitude has been calculated show students how to calculate direction in 2-dimensions (trigonometry).
I have also brought the blueprints into the classroom and made the students determine the actual displacement and calculate percent error.
Teaching Notes and Tips
You may need to review basic trigonometry (soh cah toa) and Pythagorean Theorem.
This is a good intro or review to basic two-dimensional motion. Previously lecture based, now has developed into a guided inquiry lab activity.
If used as an assessment, one could easily grade it based on data collection, graphing, and calculation of displacement.
9-12.I.B.3 - The student will apply mathematics and models to analyze data and support conclusions.