One of my favorite parts of physics (as you will see below) is labs! Physics allows us to describe the world around us, yet all too often we find ourselves relegated to theoretical equations instead of physical objects. However, in physics at Mass Academy, we learn by doing. Often, some of the first things that we do in a unit are to physically feel how various factors can impact a system as a whole. Then, once we learn the concepts, we will revisit the lab and be able to perform at an even higher level with the knowledge that we gained. Furthermore, with all of these labs, a high focus is placed on communicating our knowledge to others, thus facilitating an even deeper understanding of concepts for each student.
In the dynamics lab, we were tasked to come up with an experiment to answer a research question. For this lab, I selected the question of whether the orientation of a block on an inclined plane impacted its friction with that surface. One of the most interesting things about this lab was actually conducting the experiment. While in theory it was possible to pull the block straight up the plane, at various orientations, it became difficult to do so without exerting a torque on the block instead of pulling directly from the center of mass. As such, data collection took significantly longer than expected. However, in the end, by using a T-test, it was shown that there was no statistically significant difference in friction between the orientations of the block.
The motion lab was the first lab we did this year, and it was greatly assisted by the many classroom resources we have available to us. For this experiment in particular, I was tasked with observing how a cart moves on a flat surface and over an incline. In order to create an experiment for this, I used a Vernier cart and track, which offers nearly frictionless movement. In order to time it, I used a stopwatch and then used kinematic equations to check if the cart was accelerating. I found that on the flat track, no acceleration was observed, but on the tilted track, there was acceleration. During this lab, one of the major challenges was getting consistent data, a difficult task when it is being done with a handheld stopwatch. However, by conducting more trials, I was able to reduce the impact of this error on the final data.