Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Coulomb's Law


The goal of this activity is for students to develop an understanding that the electrostatic force varies according to the amount of charge present on both objects and the distance between the charges.

During the Preliminary Observations, students observe a balloon hanging from the ceiling and another held in the instructor's hand. Both of the balloons should be charged, either with opposite charges or the same charges. The students make observations as the balloons are moved closer to one another.

Students design and execute an experiment to determine the nature of the forces between charged objects and the factors affecting the strength of the force.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify variables, design and perform investigation, collect and analyze data.
  • Draw a conclusion and formulate a model that explains how force varies with charge strength or with distance separating the charges based on data from the investigation.
  • Clearly explain how model explains the phenomena observed
  • A realistic goal is for students to develop a model that indicates force increases with increased charge, or that force decreases with distance. Ideally, students will combine results with other groups to develop a model that demonstrates the force is proportional to the product of the charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the objects.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

Additional Requirements

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

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • PS2.B Types of Interactions
  • PS3.A Definitions of Energy
  • PS3.B Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
  • PS3.C Relationship Between Energy and Forces

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter
  • Influence of Science, Engineering and Technology on Society and the Natural World
  • Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Experiment 18 from Physics Explorations and Projects Lab Book

<i>Physics Explorations and Projects</i> 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.

Buy the Book

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