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How does the mass of the paper helicopter affect the drop time of the paper helicopter?

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Physics Internal Assessment

How does the mass of the paper helicopter affect the drop time of the paper helicopter?

Nhi Le

P. 6


Problem: How does the mass of the paper helicopter affect the drop time of the paper helicopter?

Hypothesis: If the mass of the paper helicopter increases, then the drop time of the paper helicopter will decrease because the paper helicopter with the greater mass will take a longer time to reach terminal velocity ( when there is a balance of forces and thus zero acceleration) which results in a shorter drop time because the object is still accelerating.

Manipulated Variable: The mass of the paper helicopter

The mass of the paper helicopter will be measured by using 5 paperclips of each .7g (±.1g) and the same paper helicopter whose mass is .3g (±.1g) each time. The mass of the paperclips and paper helicopter will be measured with an electric scale whose uncertainty is (±.1g).  

Responding Variable: The drop time of the paper helicopter

The drop time will be measured with a stopwatch (±.01s).

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Data collection and processing

Data Table:

Data Table 1: Mass of paper helicopter (± 0 g) and Drop Time (± 0 s)


(± .1g)

Trial 1

(± .01 s)

Trial 2

(± .01 s)

Trial 3

(± .01 s)

Trial 4

(± .01 s)

Trial 5

 (± .01 s)


(± .01 s)







 .63 ± .02s



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Investigation Improvements:

There are several ways to improve this investigation to make the data more accurate. To decrease the lapse in stopping the stop watch, using a higher drop height would give the person timing more time to react to when the paper helicopter reaches the floor because the original procedure allowed (at max) 65 seconds to react from the time it took the paper helicopter to drop from the drop height to the floor. Another way to improve this investigation would be to create a stand that will hold the paper helicopter at the same drop height and angle each time so that the distance that the paper helicopter will land will be the same each time. This will reduce the error in time because of a shorter or longer landing distance.

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