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Student Exploration- Potential Energy on Shelves (answers)

Student Exploration- Potential Energy on Shelves (answers)

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Author: Jack Bauer
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Student Exploration: Potential Energy on Shelves

Vocabulary: gravitational potential energy, kinetic energy, potential energy, weight, work

Prior Knowledge Questions (Do these BEFORE using the Gizmo.)

Look at divers A and B in the picture at left. Which diver had to put the most effort into climbing to the top of his board? Explain.

Which diver do you think will make the biggest splash? Explain.

Gizmo Warm-up

It takes energy to climb up to the top of a diving board, and of course a diver that leaps off the board and makes a big splash in the water also has a lot of energy. But how much energy does a diver have while he is standing at the top of the diving board?

Even at the top of the board, the diver has energy—a type of energy called potential energy. Potential energy is the energy an object has because of its position or shape. Using the Potential Energy on Shelves Gizmo™, you will discover how gravity gives objects potential energy because of their position above the floor.

Which object on the SIMULATION pane most likely has the least potential energy? Why?

Click on the TABLEtab. The potential energy (PE) of each object is given in joules (J).

List the objects in order from lowest to highest potential energies.

Activity A:



Factors affecting GPE


Get the Gizmo ready:

Select the BAR CHART tab and turn on Show numerical values.


Introduction: Because gravity pulls objects down to Earth’s surface, objects lifted above Earth’s surface have a type of potential energy called gravitational potential energy, or GPE.

Question: What factors affect how much gravitational potential energy an object has?

Identify: Circle the factors below that you think affect an object’s potential energy.


Observe: Drag the ball to the 1-m shelf on the SIMULATION pane.

What is the ball’s potential energy (PE)? _______________

Move the ball to the 2-m shelf. What is its potential energy now? ____________

What do you think the ball’s potential energy will be on the 3-m shelf? The 4-m shelf?

PE on 3-m shelf: ___________ PE on 4-m shelf: ____________

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