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Free Fall Model

written by
Andrew Duffy

This simulation allows students to examine the motion of an object in free fall. Download below. The user can control the initial height (0-20m), set an initial velocity from -20 to 20 m/s, and change the rate of gravitational acceleration from zero to 20 m/s/s (Earth's gravitational constant is ~9.8 m/s/s). Students can also launch the ball upward from any point on the line of motion. The free fall is displayed as a motion diagram, while graphs are simultaneously displayed showing position vs. time, velocity vs. time, and acceleration vs. time.

See Annotations Below for an editor-recommended tutorial that further explains how graphs are used to represent free fall motion.

This item was created with Easy Java Simulations (EJS), a modeling tool that allows users without formal programming experience to generate computer models and simulations. To run the simulation, simply click the Java Archive file below.

Please note that this resource requires
at least version 1.5 of
Java (JRE).

Free Fall Model Source Code
The source code zip archive contains an XML representation of the Free Fall model. Unzip this archive in your EJS workspace to compile and run this model using EJS. download 5kb .zip
Published: April 25, 2010
previous versions

6-8: 4B/M3. Everything on or anywhere near the earth is pulled toward the earth's center by gravitational force.

4G. Forces of Nature

9-12: 4G/H1. Gravitational force is an attraction between masses. The strength of the force is proportional to the masses and weakens rapidly with increasing distance between them.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models

6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.

6-8: 11B/M2. Mathematical models can be displayed on a computer and then modified to see what happens.

Next Generation Science Standards

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)

Graphs and charts can be used to identify patterns in data. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)

Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. (9-12)

Developing and Using Models (K-12)

Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)

Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)

Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)

Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)

Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)

Create or revise a simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system. (9-12)

Use mathematical or computational representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)

NGSS Nature of Science Standards (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)

Developing and Using Models (K-12)

Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)

Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)

Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

High School — Algebra (9-12)

Creating Equations^{?} (9-12)

A-CED.1 Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems. Include equations arising from linear and quadratic functions, and simple rational and exponential functions.

Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (9-12)

A-REI.3 Solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable, including equations with coefficients represented by letters.

High School — Functions (9-12)

Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models^{?} (9-12)

F-LE.1.b Recognize situations in which one quantity changes at a constant rate per unit interval relative to another.

The Physics Front editors recommend supplementing the Free Fall Model simulation with this interactive tutorial by Tom Henderson, developer of The Physics Classroom web site. It will help students gain insight into why the v/t and p/t graphs of free fall motion appear as they do.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion Unit Title: Modeling Motion

We like the simplicity of this model for introducing free fall and gravitational acceleration. Students can control the initial height, set initial velocity from -20 to 20 m/s and change the gravitational constant. The free fall is displayed as a motion diagram, while graphs are simultaneously displayed showing position, velocity, and acceleration vs. time.

Duffy, A. (2010). Free Fall Model [Computer software]. Retrieved September 24, 2016, from http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=10001&DocID=1639

%A Andrew Duffy %T Free Fall Model %D April 16, 2010 %U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=10001&DocID=1639 %O application/java

%0 Computer Program %A Duffy, Andrew %D April 16, 2010 %T Free Fall Model %8 April 16, 2010 %U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=10001&DocID=1639

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