When Pigs Fly: Studying Circular Motion in AP Physics

In a lesson titled “Flying Pigs” Mr. Braeckman’s AP Physics class creatively applied the concepts of circular motion. A Flying Pig is a toy that hands from the ceiling and when turned on it flaps its wings to push it forward. With a starting push, the pig will fly around and settle into a circular pattern and continue to fly until it is caught and turned off.
 
Students worked in groups and used only a meter stick and a stopwatch to design a procedure and make measurements to investigate the forces involved in the circular motion of a flying pig. Groups took into consideration the radius of the pig’s flight path, the mass of the flying pig, the angle of the string attached to the ceiling and the tangential velocity of the pig. Students then presented their results and shared the method they used.
 
Circular motion is used in many real-world applications such as driving a car, amusement park rides, satellite orbits and centrifuges. This fun, hands-on lab allowed students to use teamwork, their knowledge of Newton’s Second Law, circular motion and flying pigs to apply what they have been learning in class.
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Lakefield College School is a private, coeducational boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12, located in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada.

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