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Investigate the factors and the relationships between the factors, which affect how a ball bounces.

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Investigate the factors and the relationships between the factors, which affect how a ball bounces.

Background Knowledge

When a ball is lifted, work is being done to a ball.  This gives it energy.  The energy is known as potential energy.  When the ball is dropped, gravity pulls it down; in other words, gravitational potential energy is lost.  The potential energy begins to convert into kinetic energy.  When the ball hits the floor, some energy is lost.  This energy goes into the ball, creating the ball to be compressed.  This type of energy is known as elastic energy.  When the ball is compressed, the molecules are stretched apart in some places and are squeezed together in others.  As they are pushed about, the molecules in the ball collide and rub across each other.  When the ball bounces back as its rebound, it has kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy is gained.  

The amount of work put into the ball (potential energy) must be equal to the amount of work the object can do (kinetic energy).  The higher the ball that it is dropped at, the higher it will bounce back up.  

When the ball is falling, it loses some of its energy to air friction and friction between the ball and the impact.  The area of the impact of the ball is warm, as the energy is lost as heat.

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After carrying out the preliminary experiment, I have decided to use a tennis ball for the final experiment as I had gained good results.  Also another reason for using a tennis ball is because if I had used a larger ball, I would not be able to record the measurements, due to its height.  This also applies if I had used a smaller ball because it would travel too fast and it would be difficult to take down the rebound distances.  I have decided to use the same measurements, except I am not going to consider using 20cm due to the height of the ball.


I will be using a range of 30cm – 100cm, going in steps of 10cm each time.  I have chosen this range because it is easier to acquire results in the laboratory and good results can be gained.


Below are resources I have used to find information on the effect of bounce on balls.

  • http://www.exploratorium.edu/sports/ball_bounces/ballbounces2.html
  • www.google.com
  • Physics For You


  • Metre Rule
  • Tennis Ball



  1. Set up the experiment as shown in the diagram.
  1. Drop the tennis ball at 100cm and watch carefully at the distance it arrives at its rebound.
  1. Repeat this set of results at least three times to gain accuracy.
  1. Drop the ball at 90cm and carefully note down the measurements.
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Some improvements could be made to this investigation by adding a few modifications.

Firstly, I would use a larger ball and compare the energy between a larger ball and a tennis ball.  I could, however, use a smaller ball than a tennis ball and also compare the energy relationship between the three balls.

There are other possible ways that could be used to take measurements for the rebound height.

We used an ultrasound ranger, which detects the height of which the ball is bounced back up.  However, the graph that produced the results was not very accurate and several errors were made, such as many different points were produced and it was extremely difficult to make out the rebound height.

We also used a digital camera, which is a good thing to use; however, we could not zoom in to find the measurements.

To extend this investigation, I have decided to use a digital video camera because we can take a movie of the ball being dropped and the rebound height and zoom in to find the measurements.  This would be a more accurate way of recording the rebound heights due to the expansion of the movie clip.  

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This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Height and Weight of Pupils and other Mayfield High School investigations section.

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