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The Ultimate Rollercoaster

based on 14 ratings
Author: Judee Shipman
Type

Physics

Grade Level

6 & up

Difficulty

Medium

Cost

Probably under $100

Safety Issues

None.

Material Availability

All materials readily available.

Project Time Frame

6-8 weeks

Objective

This project involves the search for a frictionless surface.

The goals of this project are:

  • To demonstrate the properties of friction.
  • To create a near-frictionless surface.
  • To discover the practical applications of reducing friction.

Materials and Equipment

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Color printer
  • Digital camera
  • Typical office/hobby/hardware/craft supplies (paper, poster board, glue, etc.)
  • Magnets
  • Modeling clay
  • Tin can
  • Marbles
  • Plastic lid

All materials can be found in your home, at local stores, or on ebay.

Introduction

Friction is the resistant force that reduces the speed of a moving object. Although there's no such thing as a frictionless surface, science is always looking for the next best thing. Friction reduction can be accomplished using materials such as magnets, ball bearings, lubricants and ice. In this project we will conduct experiments in reducing friction.

Research Questions

  1. What happens when we reduce friction?
  2. What are some ways of reducing friction?
  3. What are the practical applications of these techniques?

Terms and Concepts to Start Background Research

  • Drag
  • Force

Experimental Procedure

  • Read overview of relevant topics (see bibliography below and terms listed above)
  • Address all of the above terms and research questions.
  • Search and print out interesting images figure skaters, roller coasters, and other examples of reduced friction.
  • Also, take your own photographs throughout the course of the experiment.
  • Build a track with raised sides (or use an existing track if you have one that works)
  • Secure magnets to the track, so all polarities match. In other words, a magnet held against the track should be repelled on the same side by all the track magnets.
  • Cover the non-repellant side of the magnet with a generous glob of clay.
  • Give your magnet a little push and see what happens.
  • Adjust your apparatus accordingly until you have a working demonstration.
  • Next, try either of the experiments described in the link below.
  • Carefully record all observations.
  • Analyze your data.
  • Interpret your findings in a detailed report.
  • Include interesting photos, diagrams and models in your science fair display.

Bibliography

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friction (Wiki topic: Friction)
  2. http://www.thinkingfountain.org/f/friction/friction.html (Experiment with bearings)
  3. http://mechatronics.poly.edu/smart/Archive/Project3.pdf (Harder friction experiment)
  4. Internet searches of your choosing. Search words or terms listed here, or make up your own phrases. Click on any results you find interesting. Have fun surfing the net!  
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