Sunday, October 16, 2016

Forces Match Graph: The Presidential Election Challenge


I developed an activity using force sensors to create a visual representation of Newton's Third Law.

The activity includes a brief exploration of the force sensor, then engages students within lab groups to conduct miniature tug-of-war sessions using the force while the computer records force vs. time data to plot a real-time graph.

The symmetry of the plots revels that whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second exerts a force on the first that is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

The plot also resembles the "probability of winning" graphs produced by Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight team.

So I challenged early finishers of the lab to try their hands (literally) at reproducing the Presidential graph using force sensors. I thought the students did a fine job of it.


Here's the student sheet for the activity. It's adapted from the one included in the Conceptual Physics lab manual authored by Paul Hewitt and me.

The Force Mirror

Nate Silver's graphs can be found at FiveThirtyEight.

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