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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
This simulation demonstrates how vectors are used to represent velocity.  As students drive a virtual car on a flat surface, vectors change in response to the changes in speed and direction.  A graph of speed vs. time is displayed in real-time as the car is maneuvered.  This resource can be adapted for use in middle school, Physics First, and conceptual physics courses.  Background information and discussion questions are also provided.

PBS Learning Media is a comprehensive collection of 30,000+ digital resources available free to K-12 educators worldwide. Its aim is to assemble the best of public media and connect these resources with research-based, classroom-ready lessons aligned to national curriculum standards.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in One Dimension
= Acceleration
= Velocity
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
Mathematical Tools
- Vector Algebra
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2004 http://www.wisc-online.com/copyright.asp
acceleration, graphing, simulation, velocity vector
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created December 10, 2008 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 10, 2014 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 17, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

2. The Nature of Mathematics

2B. Mathematics, Science, and Technology
  • 9-12: 2B/H3. Mathematics provides a precise language to describe objects and events and the relationships among them. In addition, mathematics provides tools for solving problems, analyzing data, and making logical arguments.

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H8. Any object maintains a constant speed and direction of motion unless an unbalanced outside force acts on it.

11. Common Themes

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

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
  • Graphs, charts, and images 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 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena. (6-8)
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)

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)

Vector and Matrix Quantities (9-12)
  • N-VM.1 (+) Recognize vector quantities as having both magnitude and direction. Represent vector quantities by directed line segments, and use appropriate symbols for vectors and their magnitudes (e.g., v, |v|, ||v||, v).

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

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

It can be difficult for beginning students to understand what a vector represents.  This fun simulation allows them to watch vectors change as they drive a virtual car.  Speed vs. Time is also displayed in a real-time companion graph.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2004), WWW Document, (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/).
PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2004), <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration. (2008, March 17). Retrieved August 20, 2014, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, March 17, 2008. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/ (accessed 20 August 2014).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2004. 17 Mar. 2008. 20 Aug. 2014 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {20 August 2014}, Month = {March 17, 2008}, Year = {2004} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration
%D March 17, 2008
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/
%O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D March 17, 2008
%T PBS Learning Media: Virtual Car-Velocity and Acceleration
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2014
%N 20 August 2014
%8 March 17, 2008
%9 application/flash
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.mfw.accel/virtual-car-velocity-and-acceleration/

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

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