Science Fair Project:

Horizontal Projectile Motion

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Objective

Predict where your ball will land!

Materials

  • Empty wrapping paper tube
  • Tape
  • Books to stack
  • Stopwatch
  • Box cutter
  • Ping pong ball or rubber ball
  • Table
  • Meter stick
  • Pape
  • Markers

Procedure

  1. Have an adult use the box cutter to cut the cardboard tube in half to create the ramp.
  2. While they are cutting, use the piece of paper to draw a target. You will be trying to get to ball to land on the target on the floor, as accurately as possible.
  3. Stack some books on a table and tape the top of the cardboard tube to the book top to make the ramp. Leave a bit of space at the end of the table as shown below. Why is this important?
  4. Measure the length of the ramp.
  5. Use the stopwatch to time how long it takes for the ball to slide down the ramp. Use this time to calculate the velocity the ball will have when it goes over the edge of the table:

Velocity Equation

where v is velocity in meters per second, d is the length of the ramp in meters, and t is the time it takes for the ball to reach the end of the ramp, in seconds.

  1. It may be helpful to take your time measurement several times and then calculate a velocity.
  2. Measure the height of the table to the ground. Using the acceleration of gravity and a starting velocity of zero m/s, calculate how long it will take the ball to fall to the ground. You can do so using the following equation:

Where t is time, h is height, and g is gravitational acceleration, or 9.8 meters per second per second.

Time Equation

  1. Now, calculate the distance the ball will travel before hitting the ground (R). Simply multiply the ball’s velocity by the time you calculated in step 7. Place your target at this distance away from the edge of the table!

Horizontal Projectile Target Diagram

Results

If your calculations are correct, you will be very close to hitting the bull’s-eye of your target. Because the ball does not travel very far, the horizontal velocity loss due to friction will be very small.

Why?

The horizontal space below the ramp is crucial to the experiment because it ensures that the vertical component of the ball velocity is zero when the ball leaves the table. This allows us to calculate the time it will take to hit the floor using only the height of the table and the acceleration due to gravity.

Author: Erin Bjornsson
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