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Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Model

written by
Andrew Duffy

This interactive Java simulation models the electric field at various points along a line. In its simplest form, students can investigate the field using only one test charge and one charged particle. Move the test charge along the line and change the sign and magnitude of charge on the particle to see the resulting effect on the electric field. Taking the concept to the next level, students can add a second charged particle on the line. The electric field is represented in two ways. First, the direction of the force on that test charge appears as a vector. Second, the field may be viewed as a graph that plots the electric field as a function of position. Positive field points to the right; negative to the left.

See Supplemental Documents (below) for a student worksheet developed to accompany this resource.

See Annotations (below) for an interactive student tutorial on electric field that provides additional content support.

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. To modify or customize the model, SEE RELATED MATERIALS for detailed instructions on installing and running the EJS Modeling and Authoring Tool.

Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Worksheet
A student worksheet for the Point Charge Electric Field 1D model. download 8kb .pdf
Last Modified: June 20, 2010
previous versions

Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Source Code
Source Code for the Point Charge Electric Field in 1D model. The source code zip archive contains an XML representation of the model. Unzip this archive in your EJS workspace to compile and run this model using EJS. download 5kb .zip
Last Modified: June 13, 2014
previous versions

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)

Use mathematical representations of Newton's Law of Gravitation and Coulomb's Law to describe and predict the gravitational and electrostatic forces between objects. (HS-PS2-4)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Types of Interactions (PS2.B)

Newton's law of universal gravitation and Coulomb's law provide the mathematical models to describe and predict the effects of gravitational and electrostatic forces between distant objects. (9-12)

Attraction and repulsion between electric charges at the atomic scale explain the structure, properties, and transformations of matter, as well as the contact forces between material objects. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)

Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena. (9-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)

Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. (9-12)

Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)

Science assumes the universe is a vast single system in which basic laws are consistent. (9-12)

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 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 predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (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)

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 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)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

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.

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (1993 Version)

4. THE PHYSICAL SETTING

G. Forces of Nature

4G (9-12) #3. There are two kinds of charges?positive and negative. Like charges repel one another, opposite charges attract. In materials, there are almost exactly equal proportions of positive and negative charges, making the materials as a whole electrically neutral. Negative charges, being associated with electrons, are far more mobile in materials than positive charges are. A very small excess or deficit of negative charges in a material produces noticeable electric forces.

4G (9-12) #4. Different kinds of materials respond differently to electric forces. In conducting materials such as metals, electric charges flow easily, whereas in insulating materials such as glass, they can move hardly at all. At very low temperatures, some materials become superconductors and offer no resistance to the flow of current. In between these extremes, semiconducting materials differ greatly in how well they conduct, depending on their exact composition.

11. COMMON THEMES

B. Models

11B (9-12) #1. The basic idea of mathematical modeling is to find a mathematical relationship that behaves in the same ways as the objects or processes under investigation. A mathematical model may give insight about how something really works or may fit observations very well without any intuitive meaning.

Editor-recommended tutorial to accompany the Easy Java Simulation "Point Charge Electric Field in 1D". It will help students understand "action at a distance" through use of analogies to explain phenomena that occur in the absence of physical contact, such as gravitational attraction and charge interaction. It revisits Coulomb's Law in the context of electric field and concludes with simple problems relating to field strength. The Physics Classroom: Electric Field (html)

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: "Static" Electricity Unit Title: Electric Field

Understanding electric field can be easier if students start with a 1-D representation. This excellent simulation models the electric field at various points along a line. For a very simple version, use only one test charge and one charged particle. For a somewhat more challenging activity, add a second charged particle. Also contains a student worksheet specifically for use with this simulation.

A. Duffy, Computer Program POINT CHARGE ELECTRIC FIELD IN 1D MODEL (2008), WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9411&DocID=1574).

A. Duffy, Computer Program POINT CHARGE ELECTRIC FIELD IN 1D MODEL (2008), <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9411&DocID=1574>.

Duffy, A. (2008). Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Model [Computer software]. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9411&DocID=1574

Duffy, Andrew. "Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Model." https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9411&DocID=1574 (accessed 29 January 2023).

Duffy, Andrew. Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Model. Computer software. 2008. 29 Jan. 2023 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9411&DocID=1574>.

%A Andrew Duffy %T Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Model %D August 27, 2009 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9411&DocID=1574 %O application/java

%0 Computer Program %A Duffy, Andrew %D August 27, 2009 %T Point Charge Electric Field in 1D Model %8 August 27, 2009 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9411&DocID=1574

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The Easy Java Simulations Modeling and Authoring Tool is needed to explore the computational model used in the Boston University Physics Easy Java Simulation: Electric Field in 1D.