# Investigation of the Speed of a Trolley Down a Ramp and Its Gradient

# Investigation of the Speed of a Trolley Down a Ramp and Its Gradient

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More ↓In this investigation I will be testing how the speed of the trolley

is affected by the gradient of the ramp. The speed of the trolley will

be affected by the gradient of the ramp by many factors. One of these

factors is gravitational potential energy. GPE is the energy stored in

an object because of its height. The energy is stored as a result of

the gravitational pull of the earth for the object. GPE is also

affected by the mass of the object but I am going to use the same

trolley. I am going to increase the gradient of the ramp and therefore

increase the height of the trolley. The higher the trolley is on the

ramp, the more GPE it should have and this energy will be transferred

to kinetic energy when the trolley is released from the top.

Gravitational potential energy = mass x gravitational field strength x

height moved

The trolley moves so it has gained kinetic energy. As it falls it

loses GPE and gains an equal amount of KE. The total amount of energy

remains constant. In theory, the amount of gravitational potential

energy the trolley has at the top of the ramp should be transferred

directly into kinetic energy, but this doesn’t happen as some of the

energy is wasted as heat and sound. The more KE the trolley gains, the

faster it moves.

Kinetic energy = ½mv²

The main aim of this investigation is to find the acceleration of the

trolley as the height of the ramp is increased. Acceleration occurs if

the velocity of an object changes.

Acceleration = change in velocity / time taken

Friction will also affect the speed of the trolley. Friction will be

produced as the trolley rolls against the surface of the ramp. It will

slow the trolley down and produce heat and sound.

In this experiment there will be dependent, independent and control

variables. The independent variable will be the height of the ramp.

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The dependant variable will be the acceleration of the trolley as it

will depend on the height of the ramp. The control variables are

variables that I will keep constant so that it is a fair test. The

control variables are the mass of the trolley, the surface of the

ramp, and the same starting and end positions. All of these factors

need to be kept constant so that the experiment is a fair test and to

see if the speed of the trolley is affected by the height of the ramp

and nothing else.

Preliminary work

I carried out a small scale experiment to see if the main

investigation will give me suitable results to prove if the speed of

the trolley is affected by the height of the ramp. I carried out 1 run

for each height to get results that are expected.

Height (cm)

No. of run

Acceleration A to B (m/s²)

5

1

0.2

10

2

0.45

15

3

0.73

20

4

1.04

25

5

1.28

30

6

1.6

The conclusion that I can draw from my preliminary work is that the

acceleration of the trolley does increase as the height of the ramp is

increased.

Apparatus: Trolley, ramp, computer, light gates, data logger, clamps,

measuring ruler.

Method: The apparatus was collected and set up as shown in the

diagram. The light gates were connected to the data logger and the

data logger was connected to the computer. I used a computer programme

to work out the acceleration of the trolley as it passed through the

light gates. Light gates record the exact moment of the trolley

passing through them. In my experiment 2 light gates were used to

measure the acceleration from point A to B. For the light gates to

sense any light change, a black card was stuck onto the trolley. As

the light gates were connected to the computer, the readings taken by

the light gates were transferred to the computer and it worked out the

acceleration. Once the apparatus was set up as shown in the diagram, I

rolled the trolley down the ramp 5 times for each height and then

increased the height of the ramp by 5cm every time up. I did this

until I had 30 readings in total. Accuracy was ensured by using a

computer. The computer worked out the acceleration of the trolley from

point A to B, which reduced the chance of human error.

Predictions: Based on the preliminary work I predict that the

acceleration of the trolley will increase when the gradient of the

ramp is increased.

Risks: There aren’t any major risks in carrying out this experiment

but a few precautions need to be taken such as making sure that there

is no one near the end of the ramp because the trolley might hit them.

Results:

Height (cm)

No. of run

Acceleration A to B (m/s²)

Average

1

0.18

2

0.19

5

3

0.24

0.202

4

0.2

5

0.2

6

0.45

7

0.46

10

8

0.39

0.442

9

0.46

10

0.45

11

0.73

12

0.73

15

13

0.73

0.73

14

0.73

15

0.73

16

1.03

17

1.03

20

18

0.99

1.03

19

1.03

20

1.07

21

1.23

22

1.22

25

23

1.28

1.266

24

1.3

25

1.3

26

1.57

27

1.52

30

28

1.57

1.552

29

1.55

30

1.55

The results table above shows the acceleration of the trolley at each

height. The averages of the 5 readings for each height have been

calculated to find one value for each height so that they can be

plotted on a graph. My results are reliable because I ensured a fair

test by rolling the trolley down the ramp from the same point and

without applying any force so that the acceleration was only affected

by the height of the ramp.

[IMAGE]

The graph above shows the average acceleration at each height. It is

clear from the graph and the line of best fit that the acceleration is

increasing as the height of the ramp is increased. The equation of the

line of best fit tells us that for every 1cm, the acceleration is

increasing by approximately 0.054 m/s².

The results show that my prediction was right and that the

acceleration of the trolley down a ramp increases as the height of the

ramp is increased.

Evaluation:

The experiment was done quite well and the results gathered were

accurate and repeatable. The accuracy of the acceleration should be

very accurate as it was done by a computer but the height of the ramp

was measured and set up by me so the accuracy of the heights may be a

little varied as it was done by a human but the results are still very

accurate. I did not have any anomalous results probably because the

trolley was rolled down the ramp from exactly the same point and the

computer didn’t make any errors. The experiment could have been

improved by using more accurate measuring instruments and reducing the

chance of human error. The experiment could have been extended if I

carried out more runs for one height to find a more accurate average

and also I could have tested more heights to see if the trend is the

same.