Acceleration Down an Inclined Plane

This is a very nice lab in that the students simulate an example problem from their textbook using an airtrack, glider and motion detector.

The problem is that of students on spring break tobogganing down a hill. This is modelled as a mass moving down a frictionless inclined plane. In lab the students tilt the airtrack by propping up one end of the airtrack to an angle less than five degrees. The students measure what the angle of the incline is. A glider is placed at the top and released. An ultrasonic motion detector records the gliders velocity versus time as the glider goes do the airtrack. The slope of this line is the gliders acceleration. The student measure this 5 times and then determine the mean and standard deviation of the mean of the experimental acceleration.

Before lab in the classroom, the lab as a whole derives what the theoretical acceleration of the glider should be from Newton's laws and a free body diagram. The students compare their experimental acceleration to the theoretical acceleration and discuss the possible reasons why they maybe different.