Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Newton’s Second Law

Figure from experiment 4 from Physics Explorations and Projects


The goal of this activity is for students to empirically develop Newton's second law of motion.

In the Preliminary Observations, students observe a modified Atwood's machine in which a low-friction cart is pulled along a track by a hanging mass that is connected to the cart by a string going over a pulley at the end of the track. This may be done as a whole class activity or in lab groups.

During the subsequent inquiry process, students should investigate either acceleration vs. pulling force or acceleration vs. system mass, or both. Linearization and examining the linear coefficient leads students to conclude that acceleration is proportional to pulling force and inversely proportional to system mass, and that the linear coefficients are reasonably close to agreement with Newton's second law of motion in one dimension.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify variables, design and perform investigations, collect and analyze data.
  • Draw a conclusion and formulate a mathematical model based on data from the investigations.
  • Develop Newton's second law of motion empirically

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

Option 5

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.A Forces and Motion
  • PS2.B Types of Interactions

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Systems and System Models

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Science models, laws, mechanisms, and theories explain natural phenomena

Physics Explorations and Projects

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Constant Motion and Changing Motion
2Balanced Forces and Unbalanced Forces
3Gravitation on Earth
4Newton’s Second Law
5Projectile Challenge
6Impulse and Momentum
7Equilibrium of Forces
8Circular Motion
9Conservation of Momentum
10Egg Protection Challenge
11Springs Making Things Move
12Kinetic Energy and Mass
13Work and Kinetic Energy
14Work Done by Gravity
15Energy in Collisions
16Rube Goldberg Machine
17Charge and Charge Models
18Coulomb's Law
19Measuring Electric Current
20Conservation of Charge
21Voltage in a Circuit
22Battery Challenge
23Magnetic Field of a Current
24Current from a Changing Field
25Generating Electricity
27Wave Speed on a String
28Speed of Sound
29Interference and Diffraction
30Sound and Loudness
31Wave Communication Challenge
32Energy Storage in Capacitors
34Heat as Energy Transfer
35Solar Cells
36Rube Goldberg Machine Revisited

Experiment 4 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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