Back and Forth (page 2)

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Author: Muriel Gerhard


  • Cylindrical
  • Cardboard oatmeal box with cover
  • Masking tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Lead sinker or a washer
  • Metric ruler
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Scissors
  • Camera (If you want to take pictures as you roll along)

Do not forget those safety goggles!

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Gather all the materials you will need for your experiment. These include: a cylindrical, cardboard oatmeal box with cover, a hole punch, masking tape, rubber bands, a lead sinker or a metal washer, a metric ruler, and a pair of scissors. Do not forget those safety goggles!
  2. Reproduce the data chart provided on the next page so that you can readily record your findings.
  3. Put on your safety glasses. Using the hole punch, make two holes in the bottom of the oatmeal box and two holes in the lid.
  4. Take each rubber band and cut each one so that you now have two long pieces of rubber.
  5. Now thread one end of each rubber band through the hole at the top thread the ends of one rubber band through the holes in the of the sinker.
  6. Take off the lid from the oatmeal box and thread the ends of one rubber band through the holes in the inside bottom of the box. Pull the ends of the rubber band through the holes until the sinker is in the center of the box. Now, tie the ends of the rubber band together on the outside of the bottom of the box.
  7. Have someone help you by holding the bottom of the box. Now, thread the ends of the other rubber band through the lid of the box and replace the lid on the box. Make sure to pull the ends of the rubber band real tight so that the sinker does not touch the side of the box. Now, tie the ends of the rubber band together.
  8. Measure 1 m of masking tape and attach it to the floor. Place the box on its side on one end of the tape.
  9. Push the box gently so that it rolls along the tape.
  10. Observe the movement of the box. Mark how far the box rolls before it stops and starts to roll back towards you. Measure how far it rolled and record the data.
  11. Now, repeat steps 9 and 10, three more times. In each case, exert more force, pushing the box harder each time and recording your observations. You may want to take pictures of the results.
  12. Wash your hands thoroughly if you used a lead sinker.
  13. Analyze your data. What do you conclude? What happened when you pushed the box and when it rolled back/ Did the force of the push have any effect on the box`s potential and kinetic energy? Suppose you did not stop the box but just let the box roll on as it approached you, what do you think would have happened?
  14. Write up your project. Include the data chart and the photos. Make certain to include a bibliography.
  15. Jus t a suggestion for your exploration: Is there a toy that demonstrates what you have just investigated? Amazing what we can do with basic scientific principles!

Terms/Concepts: Energy; Potential energy; Kinetic energy; Conservation of energy


  • DiSpezio, Michael, Skoog, Gerald, Science Insights, Exploring Matter and Energy, Scott Foresman,   Addison Wesley, 1999 p.47


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