The US Navy is using a railgun to shoot down incoming missiles. The railgun is less dangerous and less expensive than conventional ones by relying on electromagnetics to fire rounds. This same technology is being applied for use in space.
The technology that makes the railgun work and that is a potential for other uses is explored in Cross Cutting Concepts Earthbound and Down Mass Driver Lab.
EarthBound and Down Mass Driver Lab encourages your students to take on the roles of an engineering team who will design and test a mass driver that will launch Helium-3 shipments from the Moon to Earth. They will explore energy conversion and use Ohm's law to solve electrical circuit problems. Best part, they get to shoot a projectile! Yep, a ball bearing will be flying out of a plastic tube aimed at a target.
My husband and I completed this lab together and, of course, he launched the ball bearing at my KITCHEN WINDOW! Luckily, no damage was incurred. We had a great time and our kids absolutely loved it. The lab definitely works.
I will say that you need to be available to your students throughout this lab. We ran into a few glitches that were a bit challenging. For instance, we had to solder a wire that came loose from the circuit board and the origami instructions weren't all that clear. I would suggest you complete the lab before assigning it to your students for two reasons:
1. This lab is challenging.
2. You may have to make adjustments.
I think the lab does an excellent job of exploring the difference between Potential, Kinetic, Magnetic, and Electrical Energy. I also think the modeling aspect is a strength- students create a model for projectile motion in two dimensions. If you are teaching NGSS, this lab is ideal for energy conversions.
Overall, I would recommend this lab for an AP or IB Physics class and for other physics classes made up of disciplined students. The lab is challenging, fun, and rewarding. Great quality and all you need in addition to the kit is a hot glue gun and a stapler.
Thank you to CrossCutting Concepts for sponsoring this post.