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The Measuring g: Exploring Free-Fall Inquiry Lab Kit for AP® Physics 1 investigates acceleration due to gravity.

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AP Physics 1, Big Idea 3, Investigation 1

Many years ago, Galileo answered the question, “Do heavy objects reach the ground faster than lighter objects when dropped from the same height?” This advanced-inquiry laboratory allows students to investigate the same question.The lab begins with an introductory activity in which students solve for the acceleration due to gravity, g, by dropping small steel balls a known distance and measuring their free-fall times. The guided-inquiry and design activity encourages students to use their experimental design skills to refine the procedure presented in the introductory activity to minimize experimental error. For example, students may opt to use motion detectors or drop the balls from higher points to reduce timing error. Increase the wow factor of this lab by dropping items from bleachers or other very high places. Additional opportunities for inquiry are possible as students may attach handmade parachutes or drop coffee filters to assess how wind resistance, or drag, affects free-fall speed.

Complete for 24 students working in pairs. Motion detectors and a picket fence are optional and available separately. All materials are reusable.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Using mathematics and computational thinking
Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

HS-PS2.A: Forces and Motion
HS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect
Patterns
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Systems and system models

Performance Expectations

HS-ETS1-4. Use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions to a complex real-world problem with numerous criteria and constraints on interactions within and between systems relevant to the problem.
HS-PS1-2. Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
HS-PS2-2. Use mathematical representations to support the claim that the total momentum of a system of objects is conserved when there is no net force on the system.
HS-PS2-4. Use mathematical representations of Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Coulomb’s Law to describe and predict the gravitational and electrostatic forces between objects.