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This investigation will be looking at what factors affect the performance of a squash ball (in terms of how high it bounces).

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Paul Dunn        Physics Coursework        Helsby High School        

9242                40411

Squash Ball Investigation


This investigation will be looking at what factors affect the performance of a squash ball (in terms of how high it bounces).

My personal aim is to investigate exactly what effect temperature has on the bounce of a squash ball.


When a squash ball is held above a surface, the ball has potential energy.  The amount of potential energy (measured in Joules (J)) depends mainly on two factors: the mass of the ball and the ball’s height above the surface.  The higher the ball and the greater the mass of the ball, the more potential energy it possesses.  When the ball is allowed to drop and travel through the air a rule called the Law of Conservation of Energy takes place.  This law establishes that through the process of the ball being dropped, energy is neither gained nor lost, only transferred from one form to another, in this case from potential energy to kinetic energy.

When the ball collides with the floor, the ball becomes deformed (changes shape or ‘flattens’).  If the ball is elastic, it quickly returns to its original form and rebounds faster of the floor.  The ball pushes the floor and the floor pushes back on the ball, causing it to rebound.  Solid objects have well-structured molecules and atoms that line up in an even pattern and give the object a fixed, specific shape.  A solid’s molecules never move closer together or further apart.  The object may break, but the molecules never move - an incompressible object.  Gases, like air, (inside the ball) have less organized molecules.  Gases take the shape of the containers that they fill, expanding or contracting to fill that container.

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Squash balls all contain air and are not always at exactly the same pressure.  This could affect the test as it could make the ball lighter or heavier so this should be kept constant by using the same ball right through the experiment.

Height of Drop:

As discovered in preliminary experiments, the greater the height from which the ball is dropped, the higher it will bounce back - at different heights the ball possesses more/less potential energy, gains more/less kinetic energy concluding in a harder/softer impact with the surface below, producing a higher/lower bounce.  Throughout the experiment, the height will be kept at a constant.  At each temperature the ball will be dropped three times from the same fixed height to ensure a fair result.

Equipment Usage:

The same equipment should be used throughout the experiment i.e. the same surface (reasons discussed above), same metre rule etc.  Also, one individual will be appointed to read off values from the metre rule for the bounce back height of the ball as different people will approximate the separate height values differently making the results slightly anomalous.

Material of Ball:

This variable affects the bounce of a ball in a number of ways:

  1. According to what material it is made of, its molecules may melt and reduce the height of the bounce earlier or later than other balls.
  1. Some materials may insulate better (heat-wise), e.g. hard rubber, meaning that those balls would bounce higher than balls made from materials such as soft plastic (which is a poor insulator), as they will not loose the heat energy as quickly.
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A greater number of repeats at the same temperature could gain more precise results, for example, I used three bounces and created an average from those three so using more than three bounces would produce an even more accurate average still.I could create a separate investigation involving how a ball’s pressure increases/decreases when heated. I could aim to find out if a relationship exists between the heights to which a squash ball bounces based on internal air pressure.  Then I could analyse and plot the results to see what the trend is (if there is a trend) and how it compares with that of the ball’s bounce and the temperature.Balls of different materials could be heated and then tested to see how their material affects their bounce height.This experiment involves a variety of variables all of which could be tested if there were no time constraints:
  1. What results are obtained if different sized balls are heated to the same temperature and dropped from the same height?
  2. To what angle would the surface have to be altered to significantly affect the height of the bounce?
  3. Does heating the ball before changing the angle of the surface affect how it bounces off the surface?

Endless other such experiments could be conducted at different altitudes, in areas of different atmospheric pressure etc.


  • GCSE Physics Guidebook - Puffin
  • The Way Things Work - Michael Roberts
  • Various Science Revision Guides - Lonsdale
  • GCSE Bitesize Revision Website
  • GCSE Bitesize Revision Programmes (BBC2)
  • I obtained most of the information that I have included from my teacher and exercise book.  I also collected information from several science textbooks and computer encyclopaedias.  I found a small amount of information from various Internet sites similar to the GCSE Bitesize Revision Website I have listed above.

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