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Rolling a Car down a ramp.

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Rolling a Car down a ramp


When planning my experiment, I will need to take into consideration the following points:

  • Fair testing
  • Equipment
  • How many results I will take
  • What range of variables I will experiment with

I will be investigating, by varying the height the summit of the ramp is raised off the ground, if the average speed increases or decreases.


I have decided to produce a step-by-step guide for each experiment just to ensure that when we actually come to conducting the practical work, it runs flawlessly. This will also help us conduct fairer tests, as we will be following the same set of steps each time we collect a result.

1. Set out equipment as shown in the diagram

2. Ensure the height at the start line (the summit of the ramp) is 10cm using the metre stick

3. Ensure there are no extra weights attached to the trolley

4. Hold the trolley with its front touching the start line

5. Simultaneously start the stop clock and release the trolley (be careful not to push it or exert any extra force on it)

6. Stop the clock when the front of the trolley reaches the finish line

7. Record the time taken for the trolley to reach the finish, next to the relevant height, in a table

8. Repeat from step 4 twice more so you end up with three results for the same height then continue onto step 9

9. Add all these results together and divide the answer by three to obtain the average.

10. Record this average in the table


...read more.


With these points in mind it is essential that we must keep the same trolley, use the same ramp and keep the mass constant in the experiment. We will also have to keep the length of the runway the same, just so the trolley has enough time to accelerate.

I am keeping these the same because you are only allowed one thing to change for it to be a fair test and if I didn’t keep these the same it wouldn’t be a fair test.

And there was only one thing that I changed each time, which is:

  • The height of the ramp


Before we begin, we will need a list of equipment for the experiment to ensure it all runs smoothly:

Trolley - To roll down the ramp

Ramp - For the trolley to roll down

Metre Stick - To measure out 2 metres on the ramp

Chalk - To mark the start and finish lines

Stop Watch - To time the trolley

Barrier (bag) - To stop the trolley flying off the table

Retort Stand  - For the ramp to rest on, to increase the height of the ramp summit to any height

Data Collection Sheet - To record our results on

Stationary - To write our results down with

Below is a diagram of how the equipment will be set up and used.



The experiment is based on the potential energy at the top of the ramp being converted into kinetic energy at the bottom. Using this theory, we can say:

Potential Energy (at the top) = Kinetic Energy (at the bottom)

...read more.


There were no anomalous results because the results were accurate and well timed so they all lie either on the line of best fit or a bit off it.

If I were to do this experiment again, I would experiment with different surfaces of ramp. Also I would use a trolley than travelled in a straight line! The main problem we found in our experiment was that the trolley kept swaying to the sides, creating a longer journey and most of the time hitting the edge. This also could have been due to uneven floor, so a spirit level may come in handy.

If we had the access to the right equipment, we could drop weights from different heights in a vacuum (i.e. no air resistance), calculate the speed using light gates and see if it produces theoretically perfect results. We could also try eliminating any other opposing forces, such as friction, by polishing surfaces etc. and noticing if this changes the results.

To take the potential/kinetic energy element even further, we could look into elastic potential energy and see if it works on the same principle as gravitational potential energy. A simple experiment, such as pulling a trolley back against an elastic band and letting go to see how far it goes, or what speed it goes at would be of interest. And we could also look into what parameters affect the outcome, such as distance elastic is pulled, weight of trolley, type of surface etc.

All these things would help further our progress in this area of physics and help our understanding of the subject.

...read more.

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