What We’re Doing in AP Physics C
Written by Allison Coale
Physics can often come across as dense, intimidating, and boring, especially when taught at a college level. It is the task of our teachers to break this content into bite-sized pieces that students can understand and even enjoy. AP Physics at Wasatch focuses on mechanics. Currently, we are learning about different kinds of forces.
Our most recent formative was a lab on the conversion of kinetic and potential energy. We worked in groups of three to send metal cars the size of a fist down a track the length of our table. A photogate measures their speed while we timed them and calculated both the initial and final kinetic and potential energies. Theoretically, the differences in these forces should be equal because energy must be conserved. For the first trial, this was more or less the case.
Over each of our three trials, we changed the amount of friction between the cart and the track with a friction plate attached to the front of the cart. Each trial, we raised the amount of friction, causing the cart to go more slowly. This meant the conversion between potential and kinetic energy was less efficient because energy was lost due to increased friction.
In this lab, we saw the way that different forces interact with the conversion of energy. This was a fantastic way for our physics class to demonstrate in real life what we had been learning in theory and mathematically. Now, I will remember how to calculate kinetic and potential energy, work, and nonconservative forces such as friction, which prepares me for our future summatives and the AP in May.