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Altus Student

Physics 2
Lesson 12
Picket Fence Lab
The purpose of this experiment is to verify the acceleration due to gravity using the
picket fence with a LabPro and probeware.
All objects, regardless of mass, fall with the same acceleration due to gravity assuming
that there is no air resistance. Objects thrown upward or downward and those released
from rest are falling freely once they are released. Any freely falling object experiences
an acceleration directed downward, regardless of the direction of its motion at any
instant. Using the symbol g for this special acceleration, this value decreases with
increasing altitude. At the Earths surface the value of g is approximately 9.8 mlsec 2.
Since we are neglecting air friction and assuming that the free fall acceleration does not
vary with altitude over short vertical distances, the motion of a freely falling object is
equivalent to motion in one dimension under constant acceleration. Therefore the
constant acceleration equations can be applied. For an object falling downward only
under the influence of gravity can be graphically analyzed with a displacement versus
time graph shown by a parabolic curve described in graph 1. This graph shows that as
the object is falling, the displacement it travels each second is greater than the prior
second. This graph can be mathematically illustrated by the equation
= 1t +
which is the equation for displacement as a function of time.
graph 1 graph 2
Graph 2 shows the velocity as a function of time which is a linear relation for constant
acceleration shown by the equation v = V1 + at. Keeping acceleration constant, the
graph of acceleration versus time would be a horizontal line at the value of acceleration.
Definition of symbols:
t = time
initial velocity
a = acceleration
= displacement
final velocity
g acceleration due to cravit
1. Set up the photogate, labpro, and computer.
2. Open the loggerpro program, picket fence in the physics with computers file.
3. Hold the picket fence above the photogate so that it is oriented as shown above.
4. Click on Collect, when the collect button turns to Stop, drop the picket fence
through the photogate.
5. The computer will measure and graph the time it takes for each black line to pass
through the photogate. A displacement versus time and velocity versus time
graph will appear on the graph.
6. Click on the displacement versus time graph to activate it and then click on the
curve fitting button and include a best fit quadratic equation. Record the value of
a in table 1.
7. Click on the velocity versus time graph to activate it and then click on the linear
fit button and include a best fit line. Record the slope in the table 2.
8. Do procedure 3-7 four more times.
9. Complete the rest of the table.
Trial #
Value a
Accel. g
(mlsec 2)
Average acceleration due to gravity,
gav = 9.8 15 rnlsec 2
Accepted acceleration due to gravity,
= 9.80 mlsec 2
Percent difference = 0.15%
TABLE IDisplacement Versus Time Graph
9.78 9.81
TABLE 2Velocity Versus Time Graph
Trial# 1 2 3 4 5
Slope 9.81 9.79 9.87 9.76 9.82
Accel. g
(m/sec 2) 9.81 9.79 9.87 9.76 9.82
Trial one: from the graph y = 4.895t 2 + ft54t 0.08 where the a value is the 4.895.
From the equation of Ay
= !at2
+ vt, the =a. This means that 2(a)
Therefore, 2(4.895) = 9.79 rn/sec 2.
Percent difference calculation:
difference in values being compared
%di[f= xlOO
accepted value
100 015%
The purpose of the experiment was to verify the acceleration due to gravity which was
done to 0.15%. The percent difference being so low shows that our experimental value is
very close to the accepted value of acceleration due to gravity. Since the picket fence fell
through a short distance close to sea level, the acceleration due to gravity remained
constant throughout the entire fall through the photogate. Each equidistant black line on
the picket fence passed through the gate in shorter and short time increments because it
was accelerating resulting in the graphs used to collect the data. Air resistance did have
an effect on the falling fence but it was so minute, it did not affect the data. If air
resistance was large enough to affect the data, the acceleration due to gravity would be
less than 9.8 rn/sec 2.Other things that could cause a change in experimental value of
acceleration would be if the fence fell crooked while in the photogate. This would cause
a slight decrease in distance between black lines ultimately causing a change in
acceleration. Having the fence as short as it is, keeps that error minimal. Tolerance of
the measuring utility does not have much affect on error because the computer can record
to many decimal placesdepending on how it gets set by the user. Ultimately, the
laboratory was successful in verifying the acceleration due to gravity given the low
percent difference to the accepted value and the precision of the equipment.