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Calculate how the acceleration varies when heavier weights or light weights are used, either the force pushing the trolley or the force acting downwards on the trolley.

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Physics Coursework


In this investigation, instead of using a large, full-size supermarket trolley, we will be using a scaled down version, which will imitate the larger trolley. We will be using weights on a pulley system, hanging over the desk to represent the weight which would be in the shopping trolley.

Introduction: This experiment is to find out the answer to a problem by a pupil. This is as follows- A pupil was pushing a trolley around a supermarket for her parents during a recent shopping trip. Each time she moved the trolley, she was trying to keep it at a constant speed with the least acceleration. She realised that sometimes it was easy, but at other times it was harder. She wondered what it was that is making the trolley easy or hard to push. In this experiment however, we shall be using a smaller version of the shopping trolley, as we do not have access to a full-size shopping trolley.

Discuss Problem: The problem this pupil is having is that she wants to figure out what it is that makes her shopping trolley easier or harder to push. So by understanding it she may be able to reduce or eliminate the problem. What we will need

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Range: As we were limited with time we had to use a limited amount of weight, but we also needed a variety of weights. So we decided to go up in 100-gram weights each time. So the range of weights we ended up with was 1N-8N. This give us enough time to get the experiment done while still having a variety of results.

Treatment of Results: We took each 100g run 3 times each, and got the three results, added them and divided by 3 to get an average result. This was put into a graph which will be shown along with the table in the next section, obtaining. The formula for acceleration is                    

2 x Distance


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Improvements: For this experiment there are quite a few improvements to be made. The first and most important one is to get light or infra red gates, which automatically record when the trolley has went past. These are very accurate and will definitely make up for the lose of accurate results due to human reaction response times. The next improvement would be to use a different, smoother surface to reduce friction between the trolley and surface, as this would also make results a lot more accurate. The most obvious idea for this would be a trolley hovering on a bed of air, as friction is greatly reduced. The next improvement would be to get more runs in per person, as this would give a better average. The only reason we could get 3 in per person was due to time restrictions. Also we should try the experiment with a different variable, I.E weights on top, to see if we would get better or worse results.

Equation-I used various different equations throughout this experiment. To calculate the acceleration of the trolley, I used the equation: 2 x Distance.


When I had devised a graph, I used the gradient to work out a formula for the acceleration of the trolley. The gradient was:

13.4 ÷ 5 = 2.68

Therefore the formula for the acceleration in this experiment was:

Acceleration = 2.68 x force

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This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Forces and Motion section.

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