The Two Stage Rocket Interactive is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Interactive can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.

This Interactive is provides learners with an easy-to-use environment for exploring the relationship between the motion of a multi-stage rocket and the graphical description of its motion. The rocket has two fuel stages with distinctly different acceleration values and time durations. The actual accelerations and duration times are randomly generated so that different different learners are likely to have different values. An exercise is provided to guide the activity for classroom use. An online quiz is also provided to check for understanding. Quiz scores are maintained and displayed on the screen.


Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Interactive is intended for use at the middle to later stages of the learning cycle on kinematic graphing. The Physics Classroom has prepared an activity that steps students through both a conceptual and mathematical analysis of the motion. The mathematical analysis involves the calculations of slopes and areas for the two fuel stages and the free-fall stage that follows. We recommend the use of the exercise as it provides excellent practicce with such calculations and the simulation provides a means for checking the results of those calculations. Space is provided for students to show their work; it is essential that they do so since the answers can be found through the simulation without a calculation. The point of the exercise is to practice the calculation and be able to check the answer with the simulation. Checking can be done by stepping the simulation backwards to the specified time on the graph. Since the values used in the simulation are randomly selected, it is most likely that side-by-side students in a classroom will have different values. Therefore, "helping each other out" extends beyond "giving away the answer" to "teaching how to get the answer" - a valuable classroom trait that we all hope to nurture.

There is a follow-up quiz that is built into the exercise. Most questions are forced-choice style questions that involve a conceptual analysis. Students can navigate back and forth from the quiz to the simulation as they answer the questions. Thus, the quiz serves to focus student anttention upon subtle elements of the simulation. Questions are selected at random from a bank such the question ordering for two adjacent students is likely to be different. Feedback to the questions is immediate; student scores are displayed during the course of the quiz. The last few questions are more numerical and are based on a ranomly-selected motion that is different to the actual simulation. Overall, the quiz provides a great assessment of student understanding and feedback to the student. It's worth emphasizing to students that the feedback is more important that the actual score. In fact, we recommend down-playing the importance of the quiz score.

Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Two Stage Rocket Interactive. These include:
  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Assignments KG1 - KG11 of the Kinematic Graphing module provide great complements to this Interactive. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

  • Animation: Numerous GIF Animations at The Multimedia Physics Studios
    The Kinematics section of the Multimedia Physics Studios has several instructive animations that depict the motion of objects with their graphical descriptions displayed in real-time. Visit the Multimedia Physics Studios.

  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...

    Describing Motion with Position-Time Graphs
    Describing Motion with Velocity-Time Graphs
    Describing Motion Graphically
    Interpreting Velocity-Time Graphs
    Graphing Summary
    Kinematic Graphing - Mathematical Analysis

    Visit the Curriculum Corner.

  • Labwork: 
    Simulations should always support (never supplant) hands-on learning. The Laboratory section of The Physics Classroom website includes several hands-on ideas that complement this Interactive. Four notable lab ideas include ...

    Position-Time Graphs
    Interpreting the Slope
    Velocity-Time Graphs
    Match That Graph

    Visit The Laboratory.
  • Science Reasoning Activities:
    Science classrooms should be filled with reasoning activities. There is one related activity in the 1-D Kinematics section of the Science Reasoning Center that will challenge students to employ close reading, data analysis, and logical reasoning. The activities are named ...

    Velocity-Time Graph

    Visit the Science Reasoning Center.

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating the Two-Stage Rocket Interactive into an instructional unit on kinematics can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.



The Physics Classroom would like to extend a special thanks to Nerd Island Studios for the creation of this HTML5 Interactive. Visit their website ( to see more great stuff by Nerd Island Studios.

Visit: Interactive | Exercise


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