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To investigate the factors that affect the height at which a ball bounces.

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Aim:To investigate the factors that affect the height at which a ball bounces.

Background Information:

Energy can neither be created or destroyed. It can only be converted from one form to others. The total amount of energy in any isolated system remains constant.

Types of Energy

  • Kinetic

Kinetic energy is the energy a body has by virtue of its motion. The amount of Kinetic energy an object has can be calculated using the following equation:image00.png

Kinetic Energy = ½ x Mass x Velocity

KE = ½ m v


J = ½ x Kg m/s

  • Thermal

Thermal (or Heat) energy is also measured in Jules. It is energy that an object possesses because it is hot. Thermal energy will conduct or convect from a hot object or area, into a colder object or area. This causes heat to dissipate.

  • Gravitational Potential

Potential energy is stored energy that depends upon the relative position of various parts of a system. The work that gravity can do to an object (if it should fall) is called gravitational potential energy. The equation to work out the amount of gravitational potential energy an object has is as follows:

Gravitational P.E = mass x acceleration due to gravity x height

G.P.E = m g h


J = Kg x m/s x metres

Gravitational potential energy is directly proportional to the height of the object. Therefore, if the object was twice as high, it would have twice as much gravitational potential energy. How the object was raised to its height is irrelevant, gravitational potential energy is independent of the path that particles travel, the object will always have gravitational  potential energy.

  • Elastic Potential

...read more.


Variables: (Controlled)

  • Height from which the ball is dropped.
  • Surface the ball is bounces against.
  • Material from which the ball is made.
  • Pressure inside the ball.
  • Size of the ball.
  • Weight of the ball.
  • Temperature of the ball.

Variables: (Uncontrolled)

  • Gravitational force.
  • Room Temperature.
  • Air Pressure.
  • We chose to vary  Height from which the ball is dropped. and keep all other variables constant.


  • Ultrasound (sonar) measuring device - a device that uses sound waves to measure distance.
  • Computer + “LOGIT” device.
  • 2 Metre Ruler + Mirror (for no parallax and visual reference).
  • Clamp Stand + Clamp.
  • Surface


Range: For this experiment, I decided to increase the height from which the ball dropped by intervals of 100mm, starting at a height of 200mm and going up to a height of 1000mm.  

  1. Set up the equipment as shown in the diagram. Turn on the Ultrasound measuring device, and load the program dealing with the device on the computer.
  2. Drop the tennis ball from the height of 20cm.
  3. To find the height bounced, take the closest recorded distance from the scanner (by the ball) away from the total height of the scanner.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice more.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4, dropping the ball from an extra 10cm in height every time, until you reach the height of 1 metre.

Fair Test and Accuracy Points:

  • Use the same ball for each experiment, different balls may have slightly different properties (weight, circumference, density) that could seriously impact the experiment and taint the results.
  • Keep all the variables other than the one I am measuring constant.
  • Use an appropriate scale on measuring equipment. Or results you acquire may be imprecise. Or the equipment may not have the required range of measurements on it.
  • Use the same equipment to measure the height each time, different pieces of equipment may have different ranges, or be more or less sensitive.
  • Repeat the experiment at least three times, and average the results. This is to ensure that I acquire accurate results, and am able to identify and discount anomalous ones.
  • I will use an ultrasound measuring device, linked to a LOGIT data modem, linking it to a computer. To accurately and precisely measure and record the height of the balls’ bounce.
...read more.


I could have used (instead of my own eyesight) a computer-controlled robotic device, that would take the ball to the height required, and drop it from that height. This would have meant that, by allowing the computer the measure the height (in something as precise as millimetres), I could have made sure that I had the exact height required by inputting the parameters. This would have improved the accuracy of my experiment.

In this experiment, the ultrasound scanner I used, would not measure accurately detect an object less than 200mm(20cm) from it, and this prevented me from obtaining the bounce heights when I dropped the ball from 200 and 100 millimetres. If I repeated this experiment, I would use a scanner that had a faster rate of measurement, and no “dead zone” in which no measurements could be obtained (e.g. the 200mm or less, height “dead zone” I encountered) .

        The evidence obtained is sufficient to support a firm conclusion. I used accurate measuring equipment and repeated each step of the experiment three times. This allowed me to identify any anomalous results (no matter how small). To acquire further evidence to support my conclusion, and to get a better line of best fit on my graphs, I could narrow the range of my investigation, and increase the number of readings taken. This time dropping the ball at 10cm intervals as opposed to 20cm ones. For additional work, I could alter the mass of the ball, and investigate the effect that has on the height of its bounce. I could also, investigate the effect that the density of the ball has on the height of its bounce. To alter the density of the ball, I would alter the balls’ temperature.    

...read more.

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