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

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

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.