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Free Fall Lab


Shirley Chang
With
Kelvin Choung, Rachel Leung, Vivian Yu
Individual report
September 10 2015

Purpose:
The purpose of this lab is to prove that the acceleration due to gravity is approximately
9.80 m/s2 by performing several free fall tests and calculus base calculations. In the tests, we
would measure the distance of the falling object, which is a metal cylinder that generates sparks
at a constant rate according to the Hz generated. We will use the data of the distances to calculate
the time, velocity, and acceleration of the item that is being dropped without air resistance. By
finding out the positions and time of the free falling object, we would be able to find the velocity
and acceleration by using calculus and Kinematic equations. The approximate acceleration from
the experiment should end up being close to 9.80 m/s2, which demonstrates how and where did
the approximation of acceleration due to gravity came from.
Equipments:
-metal cylinder
-electromagnet
-on/off switch to control electromagnet
-spark generator
-long strip of paper
-meter stick
Procedure:
1. Understand how we will be finding acceleration from this experiment by doing the pre-lab
questions (a-e).
a. What equation would you use to describe the position y(t) of a freely falling object?
To find the positions of the freely falling object, we pick one of the Kinematic equations that
include final position (Yf), initial position (Yi), initial velocity (Vyi), acceleration (ay), and time
(t). In this case, we will be using the formula, Yf(t) = Yi + Vyi t + ay t2.
b. Sketch a plot of y(t). Dont worry about exact values, just the general shape.

Position (Y)

Time (s)
c. What do you predict the spacing of the dots on the paper tape will look like? Make a sketch.
The dots are closer together on the top, and further apart as it falls down.

d. Differentiate the equation for position to find an equation for the velocity Vy(t) of this object.
Yf(t) = Yi + Vyi t + ay t2
Yf = 0 + Vyi + ay t
Vy = Vyi + ay t
e. Sketch a plot of Vy(t). What is the slope? What is the y-intercept?

Velocity (cm/s)

Time (s)
2. Once the entire group member understands how we will be finding acceleration based on
position vs. time graph and velocity vs time graph, the experiment may begin.
3. We will be doing the experiment 3 times, set the spark generator to 20 Hz first run, 30 Hz
second run, and 60 Hz third run.
4. Make sure the equipments are working properly before performing the first run.
5. Roll out the white long strip of paper and tape it against the pole with one side of the wire
under it.
6. Hang the metal cylinder on electromagnet by turning the on button for electromagnet box.
7. Turn the spark generator to the appropriate Hz base on which run you are doing.
8. Have one person turning on sparks, then have another person pushing the off button on
electromagnet to release the object for it to fall.
9. Make sure to turn off the spark generator before carefully taking the long strip of paper off the
pole. There should be small holes on the long strip of paper which were burn by the sparks.
10. Circle the small holes, and number them in order to start measuring for data collection.
11. To collect the data, lay the long strip of paper on the table, and use a meter stick to measure
the distance from the first burnt hole to every other hole. For example, measure the distance from
first hole to second, then the first hole to third hole, then the first to fourth, and so on. Have four
members of the group repeating the same measurement and estimate the distances to 0.01 place,
then calculate average distance as the position of the object at certain time. Plug each members
estimated distance into a Microsoft word, and find average distance by adding them up, then
divide them by four. Note that all these calculation that appears on the data can be done on
Microsoft word by commanding the program to do the calculations for you with a given formula
without punching in the calculators.

12. With the data of distance being collected, the data of time and velocity can be collected by
calculations. Then the acceleration due to earths gravitational force can be found out by finding
the slope of position vs time graph, and velocity vs time graph.
13. Make sure the data are recorded with no experimental errors before starting the next run of
experiment with a different Hz.
Data:
Data 1: 20 Hz data

Dot# is the holes from top to bottom that were burnt on the paper by the high voltage electric.
Dist 1 is the distance that was measured by the first person.
Dist 2 is the distance that was measured by the second person.
Dist 3 is the distance that was measured by the third person.
Dist 4 is the distance that was measured by the fourth person.
Avg dist is the average distance of each persons measurements.
Graph 1: 20 Hz Position-time Graph

Y= final position
X= time

Graph 2: 20 Hz Velocity-Time Graph

Y= Velocity of the position at certain time.


X = time.
Data 2: 30 Hz data

Dot# is the holes from top to bottom that were burnt on the paper by the high voltage electric.
Dist 1 is the distance that was measured by the first person.
Dist 2 is the distance that was measured by the second person.
Dist 3 is the distance that was measured by the third person.
Dist 4 is the distance that was measured by the fourth person.
Avg dist is the average distance of each persons measurements.

Graph 3: 30 Hz Position-Time Graph

Y= final position
X= time
Graph 4: 30 Hz Velocity-Time Graph

Y= Velocity of the position at certain time.


X = time.

Data 3: 60 Hz data

Dot# is the holes from top to bottom that were burnt on the paper by the high voltage electric.
Dist 1 is the distance that was measured by the first person.
Dist 2 is the distance that was measured by the second person.
Dist 3 is the distance that was measured by the third person.
Dist 4 is the distance that was measured by the fourth person.
Avg dist is the average distance of each persons measurements.

Graph 5: 60 Hz Position-time graph

Y= final position
X= time
Graph 6: 60 Hz Velocity-Time Graph

Y= Velocity of the position at certain time.


X = time.
Data Result: Calculated acceleration due to gravity based on experiment

Analysis:
To find the average distance, add the measurements up and divide by the number of
measurements. The equation of Average Distance would be
dist 1+ dist 2+dist 3+dist 4
4

Average Distance =
For example:
Refer to Data 1.
Average Distance =

dist 1+ dist 2+dist 3+dist 4


4
5.39+5.45+5.51+5.42
4

= 5.4425 cm
To calculate time (t), add however many second based on the spark Hz it takes to generate a
spark to the time from zero second up to the number of hole you are on. For example, if the spark
rate is 20 Hz, then it takes 1/20 second for every spark that is being generated. From beginning,
it takes 1/20 second to burn the first hole on the paper, then it burn the second hole after another
1/20 second, then it burns another hole again after another 1/20 second because the sparks are
burning holes at a constant rate. In this case, the equation of the time would be
t = (1/20)x
x = the number of burnt hole from top to bottom.
For example:
Refer to Data 1.
t(x) = (1/20)x
t (1) = (1/20)1
t(1) = 1/20
t(1) = 0.05 second
To calculate the velocity, divide the distance by the time. The equation would be
velocity =
For example:
Refer to Data 1.

centimeter
second

10

V=

cm
s

V=

5.4425
0.05

V = 108.85 cm/s
To calculate acceleration from position time graph, plug all the data into Microsoft Excel, then
select Average distance (cm) for y-axis and time (s) for x-axis to make a Distance vs. time graph,
where it will automatically give you the equation of the graph based on the data. Then compare
the equation to the equation that we used to describe the position y(t) of the freely falling object
to find acceleration. The equation would be
Yf(t) = Yi + Vyi t + ay t2
For example:
Refer to Graph 1.
Equation of the graph: y = 470.91x2 + 83.692x 0.0715
Equation used to describe the position of freely falling object: Yf(t) = Yi + Vyi t + ay t2.
y = 470.91x2 + 83.692x 0.071 Yf(t) = ay t2+ Vyi t + Yi
470.91x2 = ay t2 470.91= ay, x2 = t2.
ay = acceleration on the y-axis
ay = 470.91
ay = 941.82 cm/s2
a 9.42 m/s2
y

To calculate acceleration from velocity time graph, plug all the data into Microsoft Excel, then
select Velocity (cm/s) for y-axis and time (s) for x-axis to make a Distance vs. time graph, where
it will automatically give you the equation of the graph based on the data. Then compare the
equation to the equation of velocity of the free falling object to find acceleration, which would be
Vy = Vyi + ay t
For example:
Refer to Graph 2.
Equation of the graph: y = 994.03x + 41.118
Equation of Velocity for the free falling object: Vy = ay t + Vyi
y = 994.03x + 41.118 Vy = ay t + Vyi 994.03 = ay, x = t

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ay = 994.03 cm/s2
a 9.94 m/s2
y

To calculate the total distance traveled by finding the area under the velocity vs. time graph
between time = 0 and the time corresponding the last data point, use the formula
final velocity x final time
2
For example:
final velocity x final time
2
(510.75 cm/s)(0.4833333 s)
2

123.43 cm

Discussion:
We used second order polynomial as the appropriate equation for position vs. time graph
because according to kinematic equations, the equation for a position at a certain time is Yf(t) =
Yi + Vyi t + ay t2. In this equation, Yf (t) is the final position at a certain time, and the greatest
order of polynomial is 2, which means that the equation of the position vs. time should be in
second order polynomial. Similarly, for the equation of velocity vs. time graph we used first
order polynomial because according to kinematic equations, the equation for velocity at a certain
time is Vy = Vyi + ay t, where there is only first degree in the polynomial.
According to our data, 60 Hz gives a more precise value of acceleration due to gravity
because 60 Hz gave us more data to collect by burning more dots on the long strip of paper
compared to 30 Hz and 20 Hz. The velocity that we calculated was instantaneous velocity
because we were calculating the velocity of the particle at a particular instant time, which is the
distance where every hole is burnt on the long strip of paper and over how long it takes to burn
another hole since the last burnt hole.
The y-intercept of velocity vs. time graph is not zero because our initial velocity wasnt
zero. We dont know what the velocity from initial position to first dot because the spark was
sparking too fast for us human to drop the metal cylinder the same exact time as when it sparks.
We could have dropped the metal cylinder 0.003 second after the spark has sparked, but during
those 0.003 second, the objects position hasnt changed yet. For example, if a runner started to
run 10 second after the timer already started, the distance and velocity of the first 10 second
would be zero, which should be excluded from the runners actual velocity when he started to
run. In our experiment, we excluded the velocity from initial position to first dot because we
dont know when the metal cylinder started dropping did after it sparked. In this case, y-intercept
was approximated by the slope of the equation.

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Referring back to the last sample calculation where the question asked to determine the
total distance traveled by finding the area under the velocity vs. time graph between time = 0 and
the time corresponding the last data point, the answer to this questions distance is 123.43 cm.
The distance does make sense if we calculate it this way. Our estimated distance is
approximately 134cm for 20 Hz, 137 cm for 30 Hz, and 137cm for 60 Hz, which is a lot more
accurate than finding the distance from just final and initial points. The more data that are
collected, the more accurate the distance should be because the change in velocity was also taken
into account into the calculation. Comparing to having the initial and final data, the distance
would be less accurate because they change in velocity wasnt taken account into the calculation,
but it is still a general approximation. As we see, with just final and initial data, we got the
number 123.43 cm, and as we go up in Hz per second, the number started to get closer and
closer, where eventually, 30Hz and 60Hz have the same distance rounded up. In this case, the
method of taking the area under the graph is not incorrect, but less accurate.
Our group actually did 60 Hz experiment run twice because we noticed a big gap in the
top middle of the long strip of paper, we estimate that we were missing two dots on the long strip
of paper, which totally effected our data. In that case, we re-do the experiment again and got a
better data from it. We believe that we did not tape the long strip of paper on the pole well, which
caused the big blank gap in between two dots at the top middle of the long strip of paper.
Conclusion:
In this experiment, the average of our acceleration based on position vs. time equation is
9.57 m/s2 compared to the average acceleration of 9.92 m/s2 based on our velocity vs. time
equation. We have a 2.3% error for our acceleration based on position vs. time equation
compared to the universal approximately acceleration of 9.80 m/s2, which is not too bad! The
average acceleration based on velocity vs. time equation had a 1.2% error, which had a lower
percent error than what I thought we would get. Through this experiment, I have experienced and
learned a lot of calculation methods to make calculation more precise, such as having final and
initial data compared to having 30 other data in between final and initial data really do make a
difference in the result. Also, we have learned to apply Kinematic equation into real life use,
where we used the kinematic equation and calculus skills to find the acceleration of the freely
falling object.