Rough Riders

based on 11 ratings
Author: Nancy Rogers Bosse

2nd – 4th grades 

Difficulty of Project

Less than $20.00 

Safety Issues

An adult should supervise wrapping the boards with different textures especially when using a stapler 

Material Availability

Most of the materials may be found as scraps around the house or easily purchased from the hardware store 

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

One to two hours to complete the experiment and collect the data; one day to prepare the science fair display 


To investigate how friction affects motion 

Materials and Equipment

  • 2 similar boards about 4 feet long
  • Books (enough to create two ramps about 2 feet high)
  • 2 soda cans (unopened)
  • 4 textured surfaces (enough to wrap around one of the boards completely) such as: aluminium foil, felt, burlap,  carpet, linoleum, plastic, sandpaper, denim, tape, stapler and staples

Background Information

Friction is the force that works against things in motion. Friction occurs when two things rub against each other. Sometimes friction makes movement difficult. Other times friction helps movement. For example, without friction it would be impossible to walk. Without friction, your feet would slide all over the place.  

In this investigation, different surface textures are tested for friction against a soda can rolling down a ramp. 

Terms, Concepts, and Questions to Start Background Research


Friction: a force that resists motion of solid surfaces 

Force: the capacity to change or use energy  


Friction is the force that works against motion. Some friction is good. Some friction makes movement difficult. 

Research Questions
  • What is friction?
  • How does friction affect motion?
  • What types of surfaces cause the most friction? 

Experimental Procedure

  1. Gather the necessary materials.
  2. Use the books and boards to construct two ramps of equal height and length.
  3. Cover one of the boards with one of the surface textures.
  4. Hold one of the soda cans at the top of each ramp. Release the cans at the exact same moment. Record which can reaches the bottom of the ramp first.
  5. Repeat Steps 3 – 4 recovering the boards with different textures.  



“Friction: Slowing Things Down” at 

“What is Friction? at 

“Friction” at 


Science for Kids – Games & Activities – Physical Processes – Friction at


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