Determining Momentum and Energy Loss of Balls Colliding Against
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Rich, Loretta South Shore High School
1) to relate types of material used in the construction of balls to the
purpose for which balls are used in certain sports
2) to show the difference between one-dimensional elastic and inelastic
3) to calculate momentum of various balls colliding against three
different surfaces and to compare results with theoretical principles
of conservation and energy
4) to record/graph test data to compare momenta of balls
5) to determine if water on a surface affects the conservation of
energy in balls colliding against a surface
6) to apply principles of momentum and conservation of energy to the
development of protective mechanisms existing in motor vehicles
one-dimensional collision potential energy
elastic/inelastic collision kinetic energy
conservation of momentum acceleration
graphing/variables conservation of energy
1) various balls (see suggested list below) 4) water
2) laboratory balance 5) blackboard
3) surfaces (wood, concrete/slate, carpet) 6) meter sticks
Identify various balls used in playing different sports.
Demonstrate the two types of collisions: elastic and inelastic.
Conduct teacher demonstration of using apparatus to determine
momentum of a bouncing ball. Make use of transparency displayed on
overhead projector showing basic set-up for measuring distance(d) ball
bounced to a point on the meter stick. Mass the ball used in the
demonstration and use the distance recorded to calculate the time and
the velocity of the bouncing ball. Record results on a data chart.
Determine the momentum of the bouncing ball and the potential energy
lost during the collision.
Arrange students in groups of 3-4 and give each group three
different balls to use for the activity. Obtain the mass for each ball
and record data. Using one ball at a time on each surface, drop a ball
from a given height (l m) onto a surface and measure the point where
the ball bounced up to the meter stick. Use the distance (l m) and the
acceleration due to gravity (10 m/s) to calculate the time (t) that it
took for the ball to reach the surface. Use the time calculated to
determine the velocity of the ball as it dropped to the surface.
Determine the momentum of the dropped ball by multiplying it's mass by
the velocity. Repeat entire process using the remaining balls,
recording data carefully. Spread water on each surface and again
bounce each ball, noting any change in the height (d**) recorded.
Record final results for all balls on chart on blackboard.
Compare data recorded by all groups on the blackboard, noting the
most elastic and/or inelastic balls. Discuss reasons why a particular
ball is used in a sport. Using a transparency containing
representative class data, show comparisons of data collected on the
overhead projector. Discuss conservation of momentum and conservation
of energy as it relates to one-dimensional inelastic collisions.
Discuss how water affects inelastic collisions against different
Discuss the use of air bags/seatbelts in motor vehicles as safety
mechanisms to reduce impact force by increasing impact time during
Suggested balls: clay, putty, rubber, ping pong, super ball, steel,
golf, tennis, squash, baseball, Nerf ball (sponge)
Transparencies: general apparatus, chart with test data from three
surfaces to be compared
Hand-outs: Calculation sheet with equations used to find time,
velocity, momentum, and potential energy.