Soccer Physics: Does the Amount of Air Inside the Ball Affect How Far It Goes?

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Updated on Apr 10, 2014


To determine whether the amount of air in a soccer ball will affect how far it goes when kicked.

Materials and Equipment required

  • Soccer ball
  • Ball pump
  • Ball pressure gauge
  • Tape measure meter or yardstick
  • Inflation needle
  • Glycerin oil
  • Roll of gym floor tape
  • Marker
  • Pen
  • Graph paper
  • Data chart


This soccer science fair project serves to acquaint students with basic information on how the amount of air in a soccer ball can affect the distance it travels when kicked with a consistent force. The greater the air pressure in the ball, the farther it will travel when a force is applied. In the process of conducting the research, the student will learn that atmospheric pressure may also affect how far the ball will travel. The student will learn about the relationship between air pressure and friction: the lower the friction, the farther the ball will go. The student will learn about concepts like air pressure, gravitational force, compression and expansion of air molecules, potential energy and kinetic energy.

This science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of scientific inquiry such as using a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, collecting data, presenting data, and making good judgments about the validity and reliability of their findings.

Research Terms

  • air
  • friction
  • forces
  • air pressure
  • compression of air molecules
  • expansion of air molecules
  • gravitational force
  • energy
  • kinetic energy
  • pressure gauge
  • air pump

Research Questions

  • How do we measure air pressure?
  • How much air pressure is there at sea level?
  • How is air pressure inside the ball related to the distance the ball will travel?
  • What happens to the air pressure inside the ball when it is kicked?
  • Will the atmospheric pressure affect the distance the ball will travel?
  • Does friction affect the distance the ball will travel?

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research:

  • What is a control? A control is the variable that is not changed in the experiment.
  • What purpose does a control serve? It is used to determine what the variable changed.
  • What are variables? Variables are factors that can be changed in an experiment.
  • What is an independent variable? The independent variable is the one that is changed in the experiment.
  • What is a dependent variable? The dependent variable is the one that changes as a result of the change in the independent variable.

Experimental Procedure

  1. State the problem you are going to investigate in this science fair project.
  2. Create and reproduce the data sheets you will use to record your observations.
  3. Gather all your materials.
  4. Select a helper (another student or a parent) to assist you in gathering the data.
  5. Use the gym floor tape and mark the path along which you will kick the ball.
  6. Select three air pressure levels for the ball, designating them as low, medium and high. Using the pressure gauge, double check the pressure in the soccer ball each time you change the pressure. Caution: When kicking the ball, try to kick with the same force each time. Have your partner mark the spot where the ball lands each time. Then, measure the distance and record the data in your chart. Repeat the procedure 3 times at each pressure level and then average and record the results for each level.
  7. Make a line graph of the data, recording differences in pressure on the Y axis and the distance travelled on the X axis.
  8. Record your conclusion and prepare your report. Include all of the following: a clear statement of the problem, your hypothesis, and a list of the materials used. Include any safety precautions taken. Describe the procedures used. Include all the data that were gathered, including all charts and graphs. For dramatic value, you may include photos of the materials used or of you in the process of conducting this investigation. Include a bibliography of sources you used. You may wish to assess what you did and describe what you would do differently if you were to do this project again. You may wish to expand this research next year. What other experiments might you use to investigate the physics of a soccer ball?

Charting and or Graphing Data

In each section of the experiment, use charts to display the obtained data such the following sample:

Chart #1 : Observations: How far did the ball go?
Pressure in soccer ball in PSI Distance Travelled in cm.
High #1
High #2
Medium #1
Medium #2
Low #1
Chart #2: Average Data
Pressure Averages
High PSI
Medium PSI


Goodstein Madeline. The Physics of Balls in Motion, Berkley Heights, NJ; Enslow Publishers

Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled Ć¢Now That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Book."

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