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The aim of this investigation is to investigate how varying the vertical height of the top of a tube from the work surface affects the time taken, and therefore the speed, of a ball bearing to travel through a one metre long tube.

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Ball Bearing Investigation


The aim of this investigation is to investigate how varying the vertical height of the top of a tube from the work surface affects the time taken, and therefore the speed, of a ball bearing to travel through a one metre long tube.

Based on existing scientific knowledge, it is known that this experiment depends on a certain type of energy being converted into another type. When the ball bearing is raised to the top of the tube, it gains a certain amount of potential energy – this is converted into kinetic  (movement) energy as the ball bearing moves down the slope. Too see what factors may affect the way the experiment turns out, it may be useful to look at the formula for potential energy.

P.E = mhg (where m= mass, h= height and g= gravity)

As can be seen from this statement, the more potential energy the ball bearing has got, the faster it will move down the tube. So, theoretically, the only factors that can affect this experiment are the height and the mass and the gravity. Since we can only possibly conduct this experiment on Earth, the gravity will always stay constant – about 10m/s2 (or 9.82m/s2 to be more precise). The only factors left are the variables which will be experimented with in this investigation, i.e. this investigation is focused on determining if, by varying

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Before beginning, a list of equipment for the experiment will be needed to ensure it all runs smoothly:

Ball bearing – To roll down the tube

Tube – For the ball bearing to roll down

Metre Stick – To measure the tube

Stop Watch – To time the ball bearing

Barrier (box) – To stop the ball bearing flying off the table

Clamp stand – To hold the tube in place and allow us to increase its height

Data Collection Sheet – To record results on

Stationary – To write results down with

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

Using this equipment, results can be easily obtained with a high degree of accuracy. The usage of the clamp stand means it is possible to increase the height by any amount. Perhaps manually timing the ball bearing with a stopwatch is not the most accurate way of recording the time taken, but a better alternative may be found when the experiment is done.


From this experiment it will be possible to find out what factors affect the speed of a body when no manual force is applied to them (i.e. pushing them). This experiment is being conducted to prove the potential and kinetic energy formulae, which, once completed, can be used to calculate exactly the results of any situation using these theories.


A step-by-step guide for the experiment has been produced to ensure that when practical work is conducted, it runs flawlessly. This should ensure that the test is conducted fairly, following the same set of steps each time results are collected.

Primary Experiment

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However, after saying this, there were no major anomalous results taken, which is likely due to the preliminary testing in which the method was perfected. Although there were no major anomalies, there were some slightly anomalous readings, although they were too small to disrupt the averages. Some of these anomalous times (the two 1.70secs reading on the height of 10cm for example), may have been human error; the timer was not watching very closely, or the path of the ball bearing may not have been as straight as the others, and therefore the ball bearing had slightly further to travel. So, overall the reliability of the evidence to very good; any anomalies were very small.

However, a sensible amount of results had been collected, which gave enough information to draw a firm conclusion from. If this experiment were to be conducted again, the amounts would not be changed because with these amounts, it was possible to achieve maximum outcome in the time allotted.

If this experiment were to be repeated, it could be focused on different materials for the tube. This would allow friction and its properties to be investigated, which may help with this investigation, as it would give an indication of how much friction affected the results. It would also help to find a way to make sure that the ball bearing travelled in a straight line each time the investigation was performed, as this may have caused some small anomalies in the results, due to the fact that the ball bearing didn’t always travel exactly the same distance.

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