Cars and Ramps

Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe first hand. But it’s been tricky for some of our kids to be consistent with a long-term experiment. Like speaking to our rice.

And that’s okay…for this reason. We’re here to learn what we can.

Does our consistency or lack of consistency affect our experiment? Absolutely. So keeping this in mind, we’ll draw what conclusions we can about how our words–the kinds of words we speak aloud–affect our rice. Affect us.

Please have your student bring his rice jars and data with him next week.


In our experiment with cars and ramps, we wanted to find out how the distance (how far a car is up the ramp) affects how far the car moves an object at the end of the ramp.

In other words, is there a greater force applied to the object at the bottom of the ramp if the car begins at a higher spot on the ramp than a lower spot?

Most of us would say, “of course.”

And we’d be right. But let’s set out to prove it.

It looks like everyone over here has lost something.

What each student is doing is choosing three different positions on the ramp as his starting positions for his car.

He’s choosing a low position on the ramp. A middle position. And a high position.

How we’re recording the position is by looking at the ruler taped beside the ramp. This group here is recording in inches. A low position on the ramp might be somewhere between 0 and 5 inches.

This group is recording in centimeters. So they’re starting position might be anywhere between 0 and 10 centimeters on the ramp.

Each student has his own car and gets to pick his three starting positions.  Each of these positions he will test THREE times.

The upside down yogurt container is the object each of our cars is moving.

When a car runs down the ramp, it pushes the yogurt container. What we’re measuring is how far the container is moved. The two pieces of red tape represent where the container started and to where it was pushed. We’re measuring the distance inbetween.

This group has a precise system for letting their cars go. Nice.

These guys have a steeper ramp, making it trickier to keep the yogurt container from blasting on its side each time a car begins in a higher position on the ramp.

Testing and measuring the force our cars put on our container takes time.

But eventually everyone lets his car ride down the ramp three times per position.

We’re finished when everyone has ALL his data recorded.

Finished for today, anyway.

For next week, we’ll take our data for our three trials per position and we’ll learn what it means to figure the average distance our cars went at each position.

When we have our average distance that the cup was moved at our low, middle and high positions on the ramp, we’ll be able to draw our conclusion about ramp position as it pertains to the force our cars apply to an object. 🙂

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