Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Driving with Energy

Figure from experiment 25 from Elementary Science with Vernier


People get energy from the food they eat. Energy also comes in other forms, like the electricity that allows us to turn on lights and heat water. Energy comes from different sources, but did you know that most energy, no matter what it is used for or where it comes from, can be classified as either potential energy or kinetic energy? Let’s take a look at these two types of energy.

Energy waiting to be released is called potential energy. Objects with only potential energy aren’t in motion, but could be soon. Objects in motion have energy called kinetic energy. Energy can change from potential to kinetic and back again. For example, when you are at the top of a roller-coaster ride, the car is barely moving, but it is so high off the ground it has a lot of potential energy. That means it has the potential to gain speed when it goes down the hill. As it descends, potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. At the bottom, when the roller coaster is moving the fastest, the potential energy has been converted into kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is then converted back to potential energy as it climbs back up the hill. When the ride ends and stops moving at the bottom, it contains neither potential nor kinetic energy.

In this activity, a toy car will be pulled back a certain distance, giving it a certain amount of potential energy. The distance your toy car travels will be an indicator of how much kinetic energy it has.


In this activity, you will

  • Vary the amount of potential energy in a toy car.
  • Use Go!Motion to measure the movement of a toy car.
  • Define kinetic and potential energy.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Elementary Science with Vernier »

Elementary Science with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Learning to Use Go!Temp
2How Do Mittens Keep You Warm?
3Baggie Mittens
4The Sole Purpose
5Cool Reaction!
6Cold as Ice
7Are We Cool or What?
8Why Do We Need Thermometers?
9Celsius or Fahrenheit. What's the Difference?
10Getting it Just Right!
11The Temperature Probe Spends the Night
12Hold Everything! Comparing Insulators
13Keepin' it Cool! Design Your Own Thermos
14I'm Melting! Water Changes States
15Solid, Liquid, Gas: Water Can Do it All!
16Learning to Use the Pressure Sensor
17Get a Grip!
18Under Pressure
19Bubbles in Your Bread
20Learning to Use Go! Motion
22Batty About Science
23Spring into Action!
24Air Ball!
25Driving with Energy
26Weigh Station - All Trucks Stop!
27Learning to Use the Force Sensor
28Lift the Load
29What a Drag!
30Oh! My Aching Back! How Ramps Make Lifting Easier
31Learning to Use the Light Probe
32Distance From the Sun
33Summer and Winter
34Sunshine on My Shoulders
35Reflectivity of Light
36Learning to Use the Magnetic Field Sensor
37Exploring the Poles
38Making Magnets
40Learning to Use the Voltage Probe
41Are All Batteries the Same?
42Stacked Batteries
43All Worn Out!
P1Weather Stations

Experiment 25 from Elementary Science with Vernier Lab Book

<em>Elementary Science with Vernier</em> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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