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In this lab you will conduct an experiment to study the principle of conservation of energy by observing how a toy car rolls down a ramp. At the top of the ramp, the car's energy is in the form of gravitational potential energy (mgh). When released, this energy causes the car to roll down the ramp. The car will eventually roll to a stop due to friction. The energy dissipated via friction is given by (force of friction) * (distance). You can assume that this force of friction is constant throughout the experiment. Please complete a lab report following the guidelines below. Click herefor a general lab report format.

Materials:

  • A ramp consisting of a large piece of cardboard, poster board, or similar thin and smooth material
  • A toy car such as a Matchbox car
  • Books to vary the height of the ramp
  • A ruler or yardstick

Procedure: This experiment should be conducted on a smooth floor, such as tile, hardwood, or smooth concrete. Do not perform this experiment on carpeting.

  1. Using one or two books, raise one end of the ramp off the floor.
  2. Measure the height of the ramp.
  3. Place the toy car at the top of the ramp and release. Do not give the car an initial push.
  4. Let the car roll to a stop and measure the total distance the car rolls. Be sure to include the length of the ramp and the distance rolled.
  5. Repeat for two additional heights, using additional books to increase the height of the ramp.
  6. Record your results in the table below.
Run #Height (cm)Distance (cm)
1.  
2.  
3.  

Results and conclusions: Answer the following questions based on the data collected during the experiment.

  1. Describe the different forms the energy takes during this experiment. Include the initial form of energy when the car is at rest at the top of the ramp, the final form the energy takes after the car has stopped, and any intermediate forms the energy may take.
  2. In this table, the height is proportional to what form of energy?
  3. In this table, the distance is proportional to what form of energy?
  4. Take the ratio of your second height to the first height (h2/h1). Also, take the ratio of your second distance to the first distance (d2/d1).
    • How do these ratios compare?
    • Do the same for the third run in terms of the first run (h3/h1 and d3/d1)
    • How do these ratios compare?
    • How do you explain this in terms of energy conservation?
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