Day 49: Wrapping Up Mechanics

We went over our last few questions on angular momentum, including a really good conversation about whether bouncing off a see saw or sticking to a see saw will cause a larger final angular velocity.

We then did some practice AP Physics 1 questions. It was great to hear all the different ways students came to their answers.

Day 48: Angular Momentum

OK, so we talked a little bit about angular momentum yesterday, and I didn't write about it. I walked past the rotating platform and dropped a book on it. We noticed that mechanical energy wasn't conserved, and we didn't have a good way to calculate the dissipated energy. We noticed that momentum wasn't being conserved, because the rotating platform didn't slide forward. But it did rotate, so something was being conserved. We decided it was angular momentum, and, by analogy, came up with a formula for angular momentum. We played with the bicycle wheel on the rotating platform, which we could explain with angular momentum, along with the classic ice skater spin.

Today, we whiteboarded some problems and then watched one of my favorite videos: Veritasium's bullet-block experiment. It is so motivating and a great way to make students apply energy, linear momentum, and angular momentum to a problem. 

Day 47: Rotational Energy

We started today with rotational energy. We talked yesterday about how a Tic Tac can bounce higher on the second bounce than the first, but today we wanted to see the conservation of energy in another situation. We did lots of trials of things going down ramps--cars, spheres, disks, rings, and hover pucks. Some of us didn't believe that one of the PASCO cars and a hover puck would go down the ramp with the same motion, but a quick test (see above) showed us that we can ignore the rotational energy in the wheels of one of those cars. All spheres went down the ramp with the same motion, but how did spheres and cars compare? That was a HUGE debate. We drew an LOL diagram for objects going down ramps and tried to, with our definitions of translational and rotational kinetic energies, to explain what happened in lab. 

Day 46: Moment of Inertia

We started today by investigating moment of inertia. I gave each group two metersticks of about the same mass (the range of masses of the metersticks in my room was large: 95 grams!) and 2000 grams of masses. I then challenged them to make two sets of objects with the same mass and same center of mass but wildly different moments of inertia. Oh, and the mass can't be anywhere in the 45 cm-55 cm range on the meterstick because that's where we'd put our hands to rotate the sticks horizontally back and forth to get a sense of its rotational inertia around the 50-cm mark. They came up with a few different solutions. We tried them all and found the biggest difference in rotational inertia came from the biggest difference in the distance from the pivot point.

Then we took off all the masses from the meterstick with the large moment of inertia. They now had their meter stick with two 500-gram masses pretty close to the center of the meterstick. Using the units of the moment of inertia as a hint, I asked them to guess where they could put much smaller masses on the other meterstick so the two metersticks would have the same center of mass and same rotational inertia around the 50-cm mark but different masses. A picture of one of their solutions is above. 

We then worked on a few problems with unbalanced torque. Then I took a page out of Kelly O'Shea's book (again) and used Tic-Tacs to show that sometimes they bounce higher after hitting the table when they're spinning. We talked about how there must be rotational energy.

Day 45: Unbalanced Torque

We had an idea from yesterday that an unbalanced torque could cause an angular acceleration. But how are they related? Today was all about collecting data for an angular acceleration vs. net torque graph. We talked about the various ways to find the angular acceleration, and we seem to have a lot of different methods. We saw a clear linear trend, but the slope didn't make much sense. What would be measured in kilogram meter-squared? We'll try an experiment on Monday to see if we can understand that slope better. 

Day 44: Describing Rotational Motion

We finished up our balanced torque problem today, but today was mostly spent how to describe rotational motion. An object that isn't spinning is easy to describe, but how do we describe a bicycle wheel that's spinning at a constant rate? Students in groups tried to find a number that would describe the spinning rate. We came up with two different numbers:  the velocity of the edge of the bicycle wheel and the revolutions per minute (rpm) of the bicycle wheel. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and came up with an even better measure of the velocity of the wheel.

We then looked at a setup in the picture above; we came up with predictions of what the angular position-time and angular velocity-time graphs would look like. We weren't sure if they were right, so we went into lab to collect data. Our angular position-time graphs looked just like parabolas, so I guess the angular acceleration is constant. I wonder how angular acceleration is related to torque?