Introduction: Individual Physics Experiment Kit

About: I am an Innovation Specialist at Pine Crest School in Boca Raton, Florida.

Physical experiments to help students to understand velocity, acceleration, momentum, and other basic physics concepts are an important part of 8th Grade Conceptual Physics class at my school. I developed this kit for Pine Crest School during COVID, where we had students at school who couldn't share equipment and students at home who needed a set equipment sent to them. Our physics teachers needed to have a way to conduct these experiments, so we made the equipment out of cardboard and let each student build their own.j

This Instructable will show you how you and your students can construct their own kits if you can help out with a laser cutter to cut out the parts. I'm not including any lesson plans, but if you teach physics or physical science, I'll bet you can find many ways to build experiments around them.

I can see advantages to using individual sets like this even when we don't have to follow social distancing policies, and they would be great for home school students as well.

One important tool that we used is the Vernier Video Analysis system, which students can use on their phones, laptops, or even chromebooks. An annual license is only $150 and we will use it for a number of different projects. The car and marble ramps are designed with 10cm gradations marked on them, specifically to make it easy to set your scale in the Vernier software.

If you don't want to purchase the Vernier system, imageJ from the NIH is a free alternative that I have used with students for measuring everything from the height of Mentos and Coke eruptions to the light graphs of variable stars. You will need to work through the documentation a bit first, but it is a workable option.

You will need cardboard and access to a laser cutter to produce the parts. I don't think cutting them out by had would be realistic for an adult, let alone a MS/HS student.

Step 1: Materials Needed

You will need cardboard or plywood and access to a laser cutter to produce the parts. I don't think cutting them out by had would be realistic for an adult, let alone a MS/HS student.

Materials Needed (per kit)

  • 1 0.66oz bottle of Aileen's Tacky Glue - I have purchased these in 18 packs from Amazon before, but now I can only find them here.
  • 2 marbles

      Step 2: Laser Cut Your Parts

      The attached files will allow you to cut your kits out on a laser cutter. These files are designed for 3mm / 1/8" materials, and we have tested it it with cardboard and plywood. If you use cardboard (as I did at my school for 100 kits) you will want to have students cut and additional strip (at least 2" X 20") and glue it to the bottom of the ramp to strengthen it. Laminating the additional cardboard to the bottom makes the ramp stand up must better.

      • the file includes all of the parts for a single kit
      • the file includes the parts for a single phone holder.
      • the PhysicsKitProduction1, 2, and 3 files is set up for 32X20 media (designed to be cut on a larger format laser) and is useful for mass production. 1 & 2 cuts their parts for 5 sets, while 3 cuts its parts for 15 sets. In other words, to create 15 sets, you would cut 3 each of files 1 & 2 and 1 of file 3.

      I found it easiest to sort the parts out of the PhysicsKitProduction files as I cut them, add in the wheels, axles, and bottles of glue, then build kits as an assembly line.

      Step 3: Assemble the Stand

      With all of the assembly steps using Tacky Glue, the most important tip (and hardest for students to follow) is to use very little glue. I promise you, however much glue they think they should use, they should use less! If they just use small amounts, it will get tacky very quickly and you won't need to use masking tape or anything else to clamp the parts together.

      The videos for the next few steps will guide you through assembly.

      Step 4: Assemble the Cart

      The cart is great for experimenting with acceleration and velocity. Use the marbles as extra mass by placing them in the cart.

      Step 5: Assemble the Marble Track

      The marble track can be used to measure acceleration, velocity, and friction like the ramp is, but it is also great for experimenting with conservation of momentum - set a marble on the flat part of a track and measure what happens when the second marble rolls down the incline and impacts it.

      Step 6: Assemble the Phone Holder

      This add on proved to be a critical part of the kit. With it, students can video their cart and marble runs with their phone while keeping it perfectly still - allowing for more accurate results from the Vernier Video system or other analysis software.

      Step 7: Experiment and Have Fun!

      Whether you use video analysis software or an old fashioned stopwatch to track the carts and marbles, I hope you find ways to help your students experiment with and learn from this kit.