Investigating Speed and Acceleration Using Tornado Tubes
In this activity, students will use a plywood ramp and various tornado tubes (made from tornado tube connectors and 2 liter pop bottles) to calculate the average speed of the tornado tubes. They will set up 4 investigations filling the 2 liter pop bottles with different amounts of water to see if mass affects the speed and acceleration of the tornado tube as it travels down the plywood ramp. The students will journal the outcome of each investigation and compare their data to see if mass does affect speed and/or acceleration.
Context for Use
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8)
Description and Teaching Materials
10- 2 liter pop bottles
5- Plastic tornado tube connectors
3 x 8 ft. piece of plywood
Using the tornado tube connectors, connect the 2 liter bottles so that you have 5 assembled tornado tubes. Leave one pair empty, fill one pair ¼ full of colored water, one pair ½ full, one pair ¾ full, and the last pair entirely full.
On a rotation basis, allow students time to roll the various tornado tubes down the ramp. Also, allow the students time to experiment with the height of the ramp. Explain that they will be using the ramp and the tubes to help define and calculate speed, velocity, and acceleration. Have students define each of these words in their science journals.
To begin the investigation, students will release the tornado tubes at the top edge of the ramp. Using a stopwatch, they will check to see how many seconds it takes for the tornado tube to reach the end of the ramp. Distance divided by time = avg. speed. Students will test each tornado tube 3x to find an average. Students will create a table to compare the results from the various tubes to answer the question, "Does the amount of mass affect speed?"
Velocity is the speed of an object in a particular direction. In this case, velocity would be the speed of the tornado tube down the ramp or the speed of the tornado tube traveling east/west etc. Since acceleration is the rate at which velocity changes, students can then use a stopwatch to see if acceleration at the top half of the ramp equals the acceleration at the bottom half of the ramp. To calculate acceleration, students need to time how long it takes for the tube to get from one point to the next on the ramp. For example: One student will use a stopwatch to find out how much time it takes to get from the top of the ramp to the midpoint and another student will record the time it takes to get from the middle to the end of the ramp. By finding the difference, students can determine if there is positive or negative acceleration when comparing the top and bottom portion of the ramp.