Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
60 minutes
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Potential energy, kinetic energy, conservation of energy
Learning Objectives
  • Understand what kinetic and potential energy are, and how one can be converted to the other.
  • Design and conduct an experiment to measure how changing one variable affects another.
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

Overview

Learn about potential and kinetic energy the fun way—by launching ping pong balls across the classroom with a catapult!

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-PS3-5. Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations. Plan an investigation individually and collaboratively, and in the design: identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data are needed to support a claim.

Analyzing and Interpreting Data Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. Motion energy is properly called kinetic energy; it is proportional to the mass of the moving object and grows with the square of its speed.

A system of objects may also contain stored (potential) energy, depending on their relative positions.

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer. When the motion of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time.
Energy and Matter. Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

Materials


A tape measure, whiffle ball, ping pong ball, squeeze clamp and catapult base and disc
  • Ping Pong Catapult Kit, available from our partner Home Science Tools (also available as a Classroom Kit specially priced for teachers)
  • Tape measure (preferably metric) or several meter sticks
  • Rubber bands (one for each student)

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2-4 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
60 minutes
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Potential energy, kinetic energy, conservation of energy
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
Learning Objectives
  • Understand what kinetic and potential energy are, and how one can be converted to the other.
  • Design and conduct an experiment to measure how changing one variable affects another.
Free science fair projects.