Projectile Launchers Help Propel Students Toward Physics Lessons

Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash

When you think of classroom tools, you probably don’t think about projectile launchers! But for physics students, they come in surprisingly handy. 

What Does Projectile Mean in Physics?

In physics, a projectile is any object that once “projected” (thrown, fired or dropped), the only force acting on it is gravity. Force is initially exerted onto the object through the throw and then gravity controls the vertical motion. A good example of a projectile in practical use would be a bullet being shot from a gun or a piece of scrunched up paper being fired by a sling shot.

What is a Projectile Launcher?

So, what exactly is a projectile launcher? Quite simply, a projectile launcher propels objects away from the launcher. While the word projectile calls to mind weapon-related things like missiles or bullets, a projectile launcher used in a classroom typically uses balls as a tool to illustrate Newtonian lessons about motion and force.

What does a Projectile Launcher Teach Us? 

For students, projectile launchers help teach or enforce basic Newtonian physics. Also called classical mechanics, Newtonian physics is a branch of physics named for Sir Isaac Newton that deals with mechanical events, motion and gravitation. 

Educators can use projectile launchers for lessons such as: 

  • the relationship between velocity and distance traveled 
  • how adjusting the angle changes the distance or range
  • how potential energy can be transferred to kinetic energy through a spring 

A wide variety of experiments demonstrates these points, including: 

  • Projectile motion (a form of motion where an object moves in a bilaterally symmetrical path) 
  • Projectile trajectory (the path of an object as it travels through space) 
  • Comparing projectile range at different angles 
  • Simultaneously launching two projectiles at different speeds 
  • Conservation of energy or momentum 

Why Use a Projectile Launcher? 

Why use a projectile launcher for these lessons instead of a classroom lecture or even video? Most students are visual and hands-on learners, so the use of instruments and demonstrations would be the most effective. 

Suitable for grades K-12, Sonic Supply offers a value-priced Mini Projectile Launcher from United Scientific. The simple but precise launcher projects 16mm steel balls and can be used on a floor or clamped to a bench top. It features a protractor and plumb line to set launch angles from 45° downwards to straight up, along with three different repeatable launch speeds and ranges, and a cable release that prevents jerking.

To “arm” your physics classroom with a projectile launcher, contact us today at 844-977-6642 or sales@sonicsupply.com

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