Baseball Science Fair Project - The Physics of Cheating
To determine whether cork, sawdust, or rubber balls, when illegally used as fillers in hollowed-out wooden baseball bats, will cause a baseball to travel farther and give it greater speed upon impact, compared to a heavier, solid wooden bat.
- 4 solid wooden bats (same length and weight)
- safety goggles
- rolled cork
- rubber balls (1 inch (2.5 em) in diameter)
- wood putty
- batting device (can be constructed with: screws, eye bolts, nuts, a spring, a hinge, two metal straps, 1 2-by-1O-by40-inch (5-by-25-by-100-cm) board, and 1 2-by-6-by-26-inch (5-by-15-by-65-cm) board)
- batting tee
- tape measure
- radar gun to track speed of baseball (may be obtained by permission of local police department)
- an adult helper
- helpers to bat
Three hollow wooden baseball bats, one filled with rolled cork, one with sawdust, and one with rubber balls, and one solid wooden bat will be attached to a batting device in turn. Each bat will spring from the batting device and hit the baseball, which will be set on a tee. The distance at which the ball travels as well as its speed when hit by each bat will be measured and recorded to determine which bat has the greatest effect on the baseball.
Part I—Prepare the bats.
- With adult supervision, safety goggles, and the vise, drill through the tip of one solid wooden bat and hollow out a chamber that is 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide in diameter and 8 inches (20 cm) deep. Repeat this procedure for two additional bats.
- Fill the chamber of the first bat with rolled cork, the second with sawdust, and the third with rubber balls. Weigh each of the filled bats to ensure that they are lighter than the solid wooden bat. Seal the tips of the bats with wood putty. When dry, smooth the tips with sandpaper and weigh each bat again.
Part II—Build the batting device.
- Attach the end of the smaller board to the top of the larger board with a hinge so that the boards are perpendicular to each other, as shown in the diagram.
- Connect the coiled spring between the two boards (as shown in the diagram) and fasten with eye bolts. Be sure that the spring is coiled enough so that when the horizontal board is pulled back and released, it will spring forward.
- Screw two metal straps to the horizontal board in such a manner that they will support and hold the handle of a baseball bat.
Part III—Test for distance.
- Transport your batting device, batting tee, bats, and baseball to an open outdoor area such as a playing field or park and secure the vertical board into the ground. Unscrew the metal straps on the batting device to attach one of the bats, and reattach the straps to secure the bat in position. Adjust the height and position of the batting device so that the bat will be parallel to the top of the batting tee. Place the baseball on the batting tee, and pull the horizontal board of the batting device back 180 degrees from its resting position and release. Note the exact location where the ball first bounces, and measure the distance from the batting tee to this location. Record your results. Repeat this procedure 25 times for each bat in the batting device at the same angle and tension, to ensure the accuracy of your data.
- Repeat the test for distance by replacing the batting device with human subjects. Have each batter hit the baseball off the tee a total of ten times with each bat, and measure the distance between the tee and the first bounce. Record your results.
Part IV—Test for speed.
- If a radar gun can be obtained, set it up to measure the speed at which the ball travels after being hit by the :filled bats and the solid wooden bat. Repeat this procedure 25 times with each bat in the batting device at the same angle and tension, to ensure the accuracy of your data.
- Repeat the test for speed by replacing the batting device with human subjects. Again, have each batter hit the baseball a total of ten times with each bat, and measure the speed at which the balls travel after being hit from the :filled bats and the solid wooden bat.
- Which baseball bat made the baseball travel the farthest when placed in the batting device? Which baseball bat made the baseball travel the fastest when placed in the batting device? Which variables may have accounted for these results; i.e., was it the weight or the composition of the bat?
- Did the results of your distance or speed tests vary when human variables were added? If so, in what way?
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.