Physics and Astronomy Labs/Motion down an incline


Toy cars (e.g. matchbox scale) roll down a ramp and subsequently along a smooth horizontal surface until they come to rest. The most important variables are the initial height and the distance traveled, but the influence of other parameters can be investigated (e.g., the ramp's slope or shape and the car's mass and air-drag coefficient).

Skills developed by this lab edit

Very few images depicting Galileo's experiments have copyrights suitable free use.
  • All levels: The ability to hand-draw a schematic sketch is a valuable laboratory skill. There is a dearth of physics diagrams posted on commons that can be freely used by teachers and/or Wikipedia (with no need for copyright permission). Two examples of an ongoing effort at WSU-L to alleviate this problem can be found here and here.
For this lab, we need two sketches: one for a classroom depiction, and the other to describe Galileo's version of this experiment. An image of Galileo's device could be posted on Wikipedia, for example on this article, which is viewed by approximately 70 people each day.[2]
    See if you can calculation the paperclip spacings required for interesting rhythms
    Grades K-6: Plot horizontal distance traveled versus height traveled. See if it "fits" to a straight line. Also, design related experimental investigation of falling paperclips that have been strategically placed on a hanging string.
  • High School and introductory college: See if distance traveled is not strongly dependent on shape of ramp or mass of car. This independence can be understood using conservation of energy.
  • Advanced college: Friction can be modeled either analytically or numerically.

What needs to be done edit

  • Make a hand-drawn sketch of lab that could be posted on and placed here.
    • A request to the engineers: I admired your cardboard sports car and propose that your next cardboard project be a replica of Galileo's experiment that can be photographed as well as used. This and this photo are both copyrighted and cannot be used on Wikiversity/Wikipedia. Photos of your replica would would serve as valuable contribution to one or more Wikipedia articles. The bells could be real or fake, but we would want to later add photogates for data acquisition by physics and engineering students.
  • Create data sheets and instructions suitable for low-level users and/or teachers who wish to adopt this lab.
  • Explain how energy conservation suggests that initial height is the only significant variable, if friction is ignored. Investigate this claim with one experiment that you design.
  • Write code to simulate this process numerically. MATLAB, Python, and Excel are all suitable for this task, and the Wikiversity pages on these computer programs would be an excellent place to publish these codes.

References edit

  1. An abstract is a brief summary that was the universal way to do searches before the Google and the other internet search engines. All the abstracts for a given journal were published once a year so people could quickly skim and find what they want. See w:Abstract_(summary)