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An experiment to investigate a factor that affects the bounce of a ball

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An experiment to investigate a factor that affects the bounce of a ball

The key factor that I wish to investigate is the height of the ball dropped and how this affects the bounce of a ball. I will have to keep other factors the same to make it fair test:

  • Ball used
  • Same piece of ground for bouncing
  • Spinning/no spinning
  • Same person dropping and reading the ball bounce
  • Air pressure/material inside the ball
  • Temperature of the ball
  • Same other conditions (e.g. air temperature, air pressure, gravitational conditions, moisture, wind conditions etc)

This is so that I can get fair results, which is dependent on just the key factor for its changes.

I will use the same ball (a tennis ball)-so that I would get consistent results, as I feel that since it is bigger than table tennis balls, and golf balls, I will be able to read the height bounced more easily, especially as it is a different colour to the walls.

I will use the same area and piece of ground for the bounce because; the bounce will be affected by the efficiency that it handles energy, e.g. a ball dropped on a flexible surface will not bounce all by itself, the surface will also dent and will be responsible

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However, some of the original energy (GPE and kinetic) has been converted into thermal energy by internal frictional forces in the ball and the floor. The distorted ball for a moment remains motionless but then it begins to “undent”. Then pushes it and the bent floor apart (ratio of surface push/ball push depends on type of surface and ball-however the floor will never push up on the ball harder than the ball pushes on the floor as that would violate Newton’s third law.) and the ball bounces into the air. Some or most of the elastic potential energy becomes kinetic energy in the ball, and the rising ball then converts this kinetic energy into gravitational potential energy. But the ball does not reach its original height because some of its original gravitational energy has been converted into thermal energy during the bounce.

I predict that a new tennis ball just taken from a pressurised can, will bounce up to 55%-60% of its original height dropped. This is because the tennis ball will behave like a spherical spring, when the ball hits the floor it exerts a force on the floor and the floor exerts a force on the ball. This force compresses the tennis ball-as long as the compression is small then Hooke’s Law will be satisfied.

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                                   Therefore:         =  H2 /H1

The constant will be from 0-1, with 0 being a dead ball, and 1 being a perfect bounce from a perfect ball made from true elastic materials (i.e. the bounce will be the same as the height dropped from). A predicted graph of the ball bounce with height dropped is as follows:




Experimental techniques

I will do the experiment as shown with the equipments:


I will drop the tennis ball measured from the bottom of the tennis ball and accordingly I will measure the height bounced from the bottom of the tennis ball.

Preliminary results

Height Dropped (cm)

Height bounced back up (cm)



























As you can see, I have dropped the ball in 25cm intervals right up to 300cm, and I got 12 readings (see the graph). From these preliminary results, I have deduced that with these amounts of intervals, I can plot an accurate graph without too many readings. In addition, I will need to repeat the readings at least twice, so that I will have three readings for each interval and can average out any errors from experimental or operational errors.  However it is clear from the graph, although it was starting to curve off at the end, that the terminal velocity point is far greater than the 3 metres that I have allowed myself for the experiment.

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