Investigate and measure the speed of a ball rolling down a ramp.

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Khalid Abu Rumman         GCSE Physics Coursework        Mr.Evison



In this piece of coursework I’m going to investigate and measure the speed of the ball rolling down a ramp. From the data that I’m going to collect I’m going to be able to work out the Gravitational potential energy when changing the height, the friction force acting on the ball whilst it rolling down, and finally the kinetic energy exerted by the ball.


Fair Testing

Before I would start the experiment I would have to devise a suitable method that would provide a safe test, which is fair and accurate. In this experiment I’m going to have to roll down a ball whilst changing the angle of elevation of the ramp, and the factors that would have an effect on the accuracy of the output results are;

  • Size of the ball
  • Heaviness of the ball
  • Length of the ramp
  • Height of the ramp
  • Texture of the ball
  • Smoothness of the ramp
  • Angle of ramp from the ground surface

Here in this experiment the only factor that I'm going to change would be the height of the ramp which in turn would affect the angle of the ramp too, if the length of the ramp stays constant.

For the experiment to be a fair one I have to;

  • Keep all the factors that affect the experiment constant except the ones that I'm testing.
  • All the experiments have to be done by the same person on the same day, because if we changed the person that is doing the experiment it may lead to different reaction times making the experiment inaccurate
  • All I have to change is the height of the of the ramp from the ground it’s resting on. And by keeping the length of the ramp constant that would in turn proportionally change the angle of the ramp.

If I managed to keep all the factors that I need constant, constant and would provide expected results then my experiment would be a fair and accurate test.

Preliminary Work

Golf Ball

Squash Ball

Table Tennis Ball

Tennis Ball

Above are the preliminary results.

Selecting the most Suitable Apparatus

When looking at the preliminary results the golf ball traveled too fast for us to be able to stop the time accurately, the table tennis ball was too light so has gone off course most of the time, due to the air resistance, and that was enough to deflect it. The tennis ball was too big and I don’t think it would be a good idea to use it, as we would find it hard to place correctly on the starting point line, and it would take too much time which might lead to anomalies. But the squash ball to me was the most suitable ball to use, and it stays in its path all time which is in a straight line down the ramp. In the preliminary tests we used 3 cm think books to lift up the ramp, but I don’t think that that would be a good idea, because the books might be compressed a bit, which would decrease the height we are aiming to achieve. So I think I'm going to use building blocks that are 8.2cm in height each and that would cancel out the chance of any change in the height due to compression. When thinking about time, the most accurate stopwatch we can get would be a 2 d.p. stopwatch and that’s all we’ve got. There are lots of different types of ramps out there, with different types of surfaces but the only one that was available to me was a wooden ramp that has a groove going through it, to provide a path for the ball to roll through. Below is the apparatus that I'm going to use to do the experiment.

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  • Ramp that has been graved in a straight line to provide a course for the ball to roll through. (length of ramp is 200cm)
  • Squash Ball (24.43 grams)
  • Stop Watch (2.d.p accuracy)
  • Building Blocks that are 8.2 cm in height each.


I predict that the increase in the ramps angle is proportional to the speed of the ball. So if the angle increases the speed of the ball increases too. If the ramp was completely horizontal (angle 0o) the velocity of the ball would be zero as there would be  no way ...

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