Elevator Ride Simulation

Tom Henderson
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Informative Text , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Simulation
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This resource includes an interactive simulation of a person in an elevator and can simulate riding upward or downward two different distances. There is a free body diagram of the person next to the image of the elevator and as the elevator moves the free body diagram changes to reflect the changing forces. The person in the elevator has a speech bubble in which they comment on how they feel during the ride. The interactive is simplistic in its controls and options for the student, but focuses well on what is happening to the forces during the ride. It is easy to repeat and compare longer rides with shorter rides, or upward rides with downward rides. There is accompanying text to assist the student with understanding as well as a few teacher notes about the misunderstandings that students may have about this situation.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Access Restrictions

- none -

Performance Expectations

HS-PS2-1 Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration.

Clarification Statement: Examples of data could include tables or graphs of position or velocity as a function of time for objects subject to a net unbalanced force, such as a falling object, an object rolling down a ramp, or a moving object being pulled by a constant force.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to one-dimensional motion and to macroscopic objects moving at non-relativistic speeds.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The simulation indicates the size of the forces by the length of the arrows on the free body diagram throughout the elevator ride. The learner can consider the lengths of those arrows and relate the individual arrows to the cause of that force. The Notes page that is included for student reading as well as the additional resources discuss the mathematical relationship between force, mass, and acceleration and names Newton’s second law of motion specifically.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students analyze data by comparing the four different scenarios provided in the simulation and use that to describe what is happening to the forces during the simulation.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
As the learner interacts with the simulation and observes the changing of the relative length of the upward and downward arrows on the free body diagram, they can also read the comments from the word bubble and relate the acceleration to the net force to how that motion would feel if they were in an elevator. The simulation itself is implicitly aligned with this disciplinary core idea, but using the activity sheet makes it an explicit relationship.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The learner is viewing evidence from the four possible simulations to draw conclusions about the cause of the change of magnitude of the force and the effect on the motion of the person in the elevator. Questions 4-6 of the activity sheet are great questions to help students understand the difference between causation and correlation.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: All three dimensions of learning are well supported by this simulation when used with the provided activity. The information text within the activity and that is included in the additional resource link provides context, a discussion of forces and finding net force, as well as example problems and practice problems for the learner.

  • Instructional Supports: There is some teacher support that discusses student misunderstandings and excellent informational text about the concepts involved in the simulation.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The student activity sheet that occupies the simulation includes multiple places where the student can participate in sensemaking, explain what is observed in the phenomenon being investigated, as well as all three dimensions to which this resource is aligned.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The simulation is written in html5 which runs well on many different platforms but there is very little interactivity in the activity.