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Impulse and Momentum

Experiment #6 from Physics Explorations and Projects

Education Level
High School


The goal of this activity is to relate impulse and momentum, and to determine that the impulse is equal to the change in momentum. The investigation is set up in two parts. First, students will evaluate how to quantify the event that causes a change in motion (i.e., impulse). The second is to develop a model for how impulse changes the velocity or momentum of an object.

In the Preliminary Observations, students observe a cart experiencing an impulse, using a hoop spring on a force sensor to change the momentum of a cart. Students address impulse in Part I of the investigation.

In Part II, students address the question of quantifying the change in the motion state of the cart. Students who investigate the relationship between impulse and change in velocity should find that the constant of proportionality is about equal to the mass of the cart. Students who investigate the relationship between impulse and change in momentum should find that the two values are nearly numerically equal.


  • Identify variables, design and perform investigations, collect and analyze data, and draw a conclusion.
  • Determine impulse and change in momentum based on measurements of force and velocity.
  • Create a mathematical model of the relationship between impulse and the change in momentum.

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This experiment is #6 of Physics Explorations and Projects. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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