When you drop an ordinary coffee filter, it quickly reaches terminal velocity due to air resistance acting on the relatively large surface area compared to the low mass. In physics ,we often ignore air resistance, but the effect can be significant. Ask anyone who’s gotten wind burn skiing, on a motorcycle, etc!
In this activity, students will determine the effect of changing mass on the terminal velocity of a falling object. Your students won’t believe how beautiful the graph is! While you can use a computer for this lab, this version is super low tech. All you need are 8 coffee filters, a meter stick, and a stop watch for each team.
You can use these for many levels of students and in many ways. It can be your first day of school activity, a filler for a weird class day (pep rally schedules!), to reinforce how to take measurements, or to think about the effect of air resistance on objects in free fall.
• Hands on
• Data collection and analysis
• Cooperative Learning
• Reinforcement of difficult concepts
• Student handouts
Keywords: STEM, GTE, terminal velocity, free fall, gravity, air resistance, graphing, distance, time,velocity, acceleration