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Kinematics - Spark Timer Version

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Motion in one-dimension, interpretation of position vs time and velocity vs time, calculation of average velocity and average acceleration from position vs time data.

Description

In this lab, the student investigates three different situations involving one-dimensional motion:

Part I - Constant Velocity. A spark tape is pulled by hand through a spark timer at contant speed. This is done for two different speeds. The student is asked to:

  • compare and contrast the two spark records
  • make a plot of position vs time using a spreadsheet program such as Excel and explain why the various parts of the graph have the shapes they do
  • calculate the average velocity from the linear portion of the graph
  • find the equation that best fits the linear portion of each set of position-time data and explain what each of the coefficients represent
Kinematic data experimental setup - part I

Part I

Part II - Motion of an Object Accelerates and then Deaccelerates. The spark tape is attached to a toy truck with an inertia motor. The truck is pushed to accelerate it and then released and allowed to coast to a stop. The student is first asked to predict what the position vs time and velocity vs time graphs will look like and then do the following:

  • make plots of position vs time and velocity vs time from the data and compare the data graphs to their predicted graphs
  • determine the maximum speed of the truck from the graphs
  • calculate the average acceleration and the average deacceleration of the truck
  • find the equation that best fits the linear portion of each set of position-time data and explain what each of the coefficients represent

Kinematic data experimental setup - part I

Part II

Part III - Motion of a Freely Falling Object. A mass is attached to the spark tape and allowed to fall while pulling the spark tape through the timer. Depending on the time available, students take data for different masses. An analysis of the data similar to part II is done.

This is often the first lab of the term so the students are often introduced to the use of a spreadsheet program to plot and analyze data.


Sample spark tape

Sample Spark Tape Record

Kinematic data experimental setup - part I

Part III

Write-ups

pdf icon Version 1

pdf icon Version 2 - part 3 only

pdf icon Version 1

pdf icon Version 2 - part 3 only


Sample Data

Part I - Constant Velocity. This graph shows the position vs time plots for two spark tapes pulled through the spark timer at different constant speeds.

Graph of sample data for part I

Part II - Speeding Up and Slowing Down. This graph shows the position vs time and the velocity vs time plots for the motion of the toy truck.



Part III - Motion of a Freely Falling Object. The graph below shows a plot of position vs time for three mass values, 10 g, 50 g and 200 g. The equations for a least squared 2nd order polynomial fit to each data set are given to the right of the graph.

pdf icon

Equipment

Number of set-ups available: 20

Per lab station:

1   spark timer
1   level
4   hooked weights (200, 100, 50 and 20 g)
1   roll of spark paper/scotch tape
1   C-clamp
2   3-pronged clamps
2   ring stand clamps
1   long metal bar
1   alligator clip
1   1-holed paper punch
1   box with foam cushion
1   roll of scotch tape
2   meter sticks
2   meter sticks position sliders

Class Items:

lab computers with Microsoft Excel installed - number depends on availability
   supplemented by student computers

Kinematic data experimental setup - part I

Spark Timer


Kinematic data experimental setup - part II

Slider for Determining Position


Kinematic data experimental setup - part I

Lab Computer with Excel

Kinematic data experimental setup - part I

Toy Truck for Part II

Kinematic data experimental setup - part I

Small Items for Part III


Notes

  1. The spark tape is coated on one side with a conducting material. The conducting side is shiny and must be facing the tips of the electrodes inside the spark timer (i.e facing out) in order for data points to be recorded on the spark tape.
  2. The tips of both electrodes in the spark timer must be simultaneously touching the spark tape in order to get a data point. The position of the tip of each electrode can be individually adjusted using a set screw located on the front of the spark timer just above each electrode. These are adjusted each morning before the lab is run. However, the spark timer does occasionally miss points. The student should inspect the tape for missed points before starting the data analysis.
  3. The spark timer should be turned off before inserting a spark tape. If the spark timer is left on, it will leave spurious marks on the tape which will sometimes make it difficult to measure the position of real data points. Also, it is possible to get a shock from touching the tape while the spark timer is on.
  4. To minimize friction in part III, the spark time should be plumbed in all directions and the spark tape should be plumb to the slot through which it drops. The frictional effect is minimal with masses of 200 g or more. Friction becomes significant with masses less than 100 g.
  5. When using masses of 100 g or more, the end of the spark tape should be reinforced with scotch tape before punching the hole to hang the mass. Without the reinforcement, the hooked mass will tear through the tape.

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