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Teaching Physics Blog

AP Physics:The Kinematics of Plants vs Zombies

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Learning Objectives

• Students will be able to apply equations of motion to the video game, Plants vs Zombies

Assessment Type
This lab activity asks students to use video analysis software to address several questions related to the motion of zombies in the popular video game, Plants vs Zombies. This activity could be used as a formative or summative assessment of students' knowledge related to constant-velocity motion. It could also be used as an introductory review activity for AP students prior to starting the first unit.

Assignment Details
  • Before beginning this activity, students should download and install the required software:
  • Tracker: This is a powerful open-source video analysis tool for physics teachers. It makes a great free alternative if you do not have Vernier's LoggerPro software, which can also perform the same video analysis.
  • Plants vs Zombies: While the video snippets needed for this activity can be downloaded below. It will be helpful for students to have some experience with the actual game. It can be played in the web browser or downloaded as a free demo.
  • The activity can be presented to students as a series of questions. Students are directed to collect data that clearly and convincingly answers the following questions.
  • Question 1: Does the pea shooter slow down the zombies?
  • Question 2: At what position and time will the javelin-carrying zombie pass the cone-wearing zombie?
  • Question 3: By how much does the frozen pea shooter slow down the zombie?
  • Students will create a lab report or a brief video that presents their data, describes their analysis, and explains their conclusion.

Instructor's Notes
  • If you have screen recording software available, you can ask that students make their own videos for analysis, otherwise students can use the following videos to address each of the questions.
  • Question 1 Video
  • Question 2 Video
  • Question 3 Video
  • Students could be assigned to answer all three of the questions or given the option of choosing just one question to answer. Question 2 is the most open ended and would require students to make careful choices regarding their frame of reference for measurements.
  • Students can compare their prediction in Question 2 to this video, which shows the javelin-carrying zombie passing the cone-wearing zombie.
  • The following could be used as a simple rubric for evaluating this student activity:
    (10 pts) - Clear and convincing conclusions are drawn that are consistent with the data
    (5 pts) - Data analysis is correct and appropriate for the question being addressed
    (5 pts) - The data was collected accurately and illustrates the motion shown in the video.

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NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty:
AP Physics B Site from Dolores Gende, AP Central's content advisor for physics since 2004:
College Board's AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism Course Home Page:
College Board's AP Physics C: Mechanics Course Home Page:
Table of Information and Equation Tables for the AP Physics Exams:

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