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Bouncing Ball Physics: What is Elasticity?

based on 89 ratings
Author: Erin Bjornsson
Topics: Third Grade, Physics

What makes a ball bouncy? Have you ever wondered why some balls bounce higher than others? A ball’s ability to bounce has a lot to do with its elasticity. So what is elasticity? It’s an object’s ability to return to its original shape after being stretched or squeezed. Objects that are more stretchy are usually more elastic, too. Do you have pajama pants with elastic material in the top? You can stretch to get into them, but they will shrink back to fit your waist!

In this science fair project, we’ll investigate bouncing ball physics to determine which ball has the highest elasticity and find out how elasticity contributes to bounce height.

Problem:

Which of the following balls has the highest elasticity: a rubber ball, a marble, or a ping pong ball?

Materials

  • Wooden board (a cutting board or a piece of scrap plywood will work great)
  • Yardstick, meter stick or tape measure with centimeters
  • Rubber bouncy ball
  • Marble
  • Ping pong ball
  • Table or wall
  • Tape

Procedure:

  1. Set the wooden board flat on the ground next to a wall or table.
  2. Tape the meter stick to the wall or table as shown. Make sure that the meter stick starts with 0 is at the bottom. Before conducting this experiment, use this time to formulate your hypothesis. Which ball do you think will bounce the highest? Why?

Bouncing Ball Physics Setup Diagram

  1. Have a partner drop the rubber ball from the 25 centimeter mark and record the height of the first bounce in a table like the one below. Repeat 5 times and record bounce height for each of your 5 trials. It’s important to drop the ball and not throw it downward. Why do you think this is?

Type of Ball

Drop Height

Bounce Height

Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 3

Trial 4

Trial 5

Average

Rubber

25 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ping Pong

25 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marble

25 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubber

50 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ping Pong

50 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marble

50 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubber

75 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ping Pong

75 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marble

75 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Average the recorded bounce heights from each trial together to find the average bounce height for the rubber ball. Here’s how to calculate an average:

A formula demonstrating how to take the average bounce height of all five trials. Add the heights together and divide by five to get the average.

  1. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the marble.
  2. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the ping pong ball
  3. Have a partner drop the rubber ball 5 times from the 50 centimeter mark and record the height in a table.
  4. Average the recorded bounce heights from each 50 cm trial together to find the average bounce height for the rubber ball.
  5. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for the marble.
  6. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for the ping pong ball.
  7. Have a partner drop the rubber ball 5 times from the 75 centimeter mark and record the height in a table.
  8. Average the recorded bounce heights from each 75 cm trial together to find the average bounce height for the rubber ball. How do you think the height at which the ball was dropped affects how high it bounces? Why? You should see a pattern emerging!
  9. Repeat steps 11 and 12 for the marble.
  10. Repeat steps 11 and 12 for the ping pong ball.
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