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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Maths
  • Word count: 2291

Trolley Investigation

Extracts from this document...


Jatish Patel                                                                                                     Mr. Griffith

GCSE Physics

Trolley Investigation

Choosing a Variable

Before I begin the investigation, I must first decide which variable I should investigate.

Variables can be divided into 2 major groups: dependant variables and independent variables. In measuring the behaviour of a trolley the dependant variable is speed. This is because the speed will change when other variables are changed.

An independent variable is a variable which cannot be affected by other variables. There are many independent variables in measuring the behaviour of a trolley and I must first assess which one would be a suitable one to investigate:

  • Shape of the trolley- the shape and aerodynamics of the trolley can affect its motion behaviour. This is because the trolley is affected by air resistance and certain shapes are more air resistant than others. This would be a difficult variable to investigate because we would be limited by the number of shapes we could use. It would be difficult to plot the results in the form of a line graph.
  • Gradient of ramp- gradient of the ramp affects the motion of the trolley because as the gradient gets larger the height the trolley starts from gets higher as well. This would mean that at higher points the trolley would have more gravitational potential energy. This would be a good variable to investigate because we can use various gradients but it might be slightly difficult to measure some angles with the protractor.
  • Height of start position- this affects the motion of the trolley because as the height gets larger the trolley gains more gravitational energy. This would be a good variable to investigate because there are many heights we can use and it is also easy to calculate the gravitational potential energy of the trolley given the height.
  • Mass of the trolley- this affects the motion of the trolley because acceleration is equal to force over mass and the force (gravity) remains constant so as mass increases, so would the acceleration and therefore the speed of the trolley at the bottom of the ramp increases as well. This would be slightly difficult to investigate because we may be limited by the weights we can use.
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According to the equation these would be the values obtained for the v² and this is what the results graph would look like.

Height / m

v² / m²/s²
















Preliminary Work

From experimenting with the equipment we found many different things whish could be amended in the method.

The jack and the ramp would have to be adhered to the work surface. This would stop them from moving which would change measurements slightly and make the results slightly inaccurate.

The distance travelled by the trolley will be one metre because that is the simplest figure that could be used with the ramp.

The heights that will be used will be 0.04m, 0.06m, 0.08m, 0.10m, 0.15m, 0.20m and 0.25m because they are simple numbers and these are the heights that can be measured safely. The lowest is 0.04m because when the height is 0.02m the trolley stops moving before it reaches the light gate. The highest is 0.25m because that is the highest height achievable by using one jack. We will use 7 different heights for our results to be reliable because 5 is too few data points to be able to plot an accurate results graph.

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If I could redo the experiment I would improve it by:

  • Using one trolley throughout the entire experiment in order to obtain a more consistent set of results.
  • By creating an environment in which there would be no friction. This could be done by using an air track instead of a wheeled trolley and a ramp. There would be little or no friction between the track and the trolley.
  • Although it is not possible with the resources available to me, I could perform the experiment in a vacuum to take away the effect of air resistance on the trolley.

An additional experiment to confirm my results would be to measure the speed using the light gate instead of measuring time. This would also eliminate the possibility of an error when measuring the length of the runway.

I think that even though two trolleys were used, the results are still fairly reliable. If you define anomalous data as pieces of data more than 10% away from the line of best fit, there is no anomalous data.

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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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