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The Variables Unit includes 4 investigations.  In each investigation students conduct controlled experiments to test variables.

  • Investigation 1- Swingers 
  • Investigation 2- Lifeboats
  • Investigation 3- Plane Sense
  • Investigation 4- Flippers
    • Investigation 1 - Swingers - In swingers the students idetify the variables that may affect the number of swings (cycles) a pendulum makes in 15 seconds.  Eventually they discover mass and release position don"t make a difference, only string length makes a diference.  Through graphing we see a relationship between string length and number of swings.  The shorter the string, the greater the number of swings, and, the longer the string, the less the swings.
    • Investigation 2 - Lifeboats - In this investigation students discover the relationship between capacity and the number of "passengers" a "lifeboat" can hold.  The students attempt to control the variables in their controlled experiment as they put pennies into a paper cup boat.  They create scatter plots and discover a positive relationship between capacity and the number of passengers.
    • Investigation 3 - Plane Sense -  Students first create little Foss airplanes that fly with propellers.  Students will again conduct contolled experiments to discover what variables affect the distance a plane can fly.
    • Investigation 4 - Flippers - In this last investigation students work with catapults to shoot waded up aluminum foil balls.  They again try to control the variables in their experiments and discover relationships between distance shot, mass/ size of the ball, and amount of tension the lever is pulled back.

    Investigation 1- Essential Questions and Concepts Learned

      1. What is a pendulum and where have you seen one?
        A pendulum is a mass supported at a point, free to swing.
      2. What is a variable?
        A variable is anything in an experiment you can change.
      3. Does changing the variables mass, length, and release position make a difference in the # of swings?
        A controlled experiment can be used to test one variable at a time to find length is the only variable to make a difference.
      4. Is there a relationship between the length of a pendulum and the # of swings in a unit of time?
        As the length of a pendulum increases, the number of swings in a unit of time decreases.
      5. How can graphs be used to predict results?
        A two-coordinate graph displays the outcome of a controlled experiment and can be used to make predictions.

    Investigation 2- Essential Questions and Concepts Learned

      1. What variables might affect the number of passengers a “lifeboat” can hold?
        Placement of pennies, movement of water, type of cup, and size of the cup
      2. What is the relationship between the capacity of a “lifeboat” and the number of passengers it will hold?
        The greater the capacity the higher the # of passengers it will hold.
      3. How do you find the capacity of a lifeboat?
        Capacity is the volume of water a container can hold when completely filled.
    Investigation 3- Essential Questions and Concepts Learned
    1. What are the parts of an airplane system?
      The parts are the pop sickle sticks, fishing line, duct tape, staples, straws, propeller, tail, and rubber band.
    2. What variables affect the distance an airplane flies?
      # of winds, length of rubber band, and the mass of the plane, and possible any flaws in construction
    3. How do other variables affect the flight of a plane?
      In a controlled experiment the experimental variable is changed incrementally to see how it affects the outcome.
    4. What can graphs tell us about the results of a controlled experiment?
      A two-coordinate graph can tell us the relationship between the experimental variable and an outcome.

    Investigation 4- Essential Questions and Concepts Learned

      1. What are the parts of a flipper system?
        The parts are the base, the stick, and the ball.
      2. What variables affect the distance a ball flies?
        Flipper stick length, angle of base, mass, how far down the stick is pushed
      3. What relationship do you discover between your experimental variable and your outcome?
        The longer the flipper stick length, the less distance or height a ball flies.  Or, The greater the angle of the base, the farther the ball flies.

    Investigation 1: Swingers
    Controlled experiment
    Two-coordinate graph
    Investigation 2: Lifeboats
    Investigation 3: Plane Sense
    Investigation 4: Flippers
    no new terms

    Science Stories Terms
    Investigation 1: Swingers
    Astronomer Spectrum
    Barometer Theory
    Investigation 2: Lifeboats
    Investigation 3: Plane Sense
    Aeronautics Rudder
    Aileron Supersonic
    Anemometer Velocity
    Combustion chamber
    Investigation 4: Flippers