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Projectile Motion

Graham Phillips's picture

Projectile Motion


Have you ever wondered how an archer is able to aim their arrows “just right” in order to hit a target several (even hundreds) of meters away? Or, why soccer players kick the ball differently based on how far away they are from the goal? Both of these cases are examples of projectile motion- explained in detail by Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century A.D.


The picture below shows Spanish Paralympic athlete Antonio Rebollo lighting the Olympic Torch to open the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.

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How was he able to do that? It all stems from an understanding of the forces involved in an object moving in two dimensions.


Take a moment and write down in the space below some of the factors and variables you think have an effect on how an object moves in two dimensions:







Now, let’s begin to explore some of your predictions. Go to the following website:


Don’t change any of the numbers in the green box to the right just yet. Rather, look at the different changes you could make: Do any of the things you could change match what you wrote on any of the green stickies? If so, place the green sticky you want to test and place it in the box. We will see whether or not your __________ ________________ has an effect on whether your projectile (thrown object) makes the target.


I think that has an effect on ___________________________.







Now, try an experiment using PhET. First, describe your procedure below:












Now, make a data table here in the space below: Remember the benefits of being neat!




















What conclusions could you draw from your data?











Would you like to test any other variables? Place a second green sticky below and design a second experiment:


I would like to know if has an effect on _________________.