Rough Riders

4.4 based on 13 ratings

Updated on Apr 20, 2015


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

  • 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

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.


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?

  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

Nancy Rogers Bosse has been involved in education for over forty years: first as a student, then as a teacher, and currently as a curriculum developer. For the last fifteen years she has combined a career in freelance curriculum development with parenthood - another important facet of education and probably the most challenging. Nancy lives in Henderson, Nevada with husband and their three teenagers.

How likely are you to recommend to your friends and colleagues?

Not at all likely
Extremely likely