Hands-on Activity: Ball Bounce Experiment

Contributed by: Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

A soccer goalie reaches for a black and white ball caught in a net.
Students investigate balls and their bounce
copyright
Copyright © Microsoft Corporation, 1983-2001

Summary

Many of today's popular sports are based around the use of balls, yet none of the balls are completely alike. In fact, they are all designed with specific characteristics in mind and are quite varied. Students investigate different balls' abilities to bounce and represent the data they collect graphically.

Engineering Connection

Materials scientists and engineers identify the properties of many different materials and recommend their best uses. This activity demonstrates reverse engineering, in which the properties of finished products are determined by performing tests on the products.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should know:

  • How to run an experiment
  • How to collect data
  • How to present data
  • How to interpret graphs
  • How to graph results
  • Teamwork

More Curriculum Like This

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Bouncing Balls (for High School)

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Elementary Lesson

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step "how many more" and "how many less" problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. (Grade 3) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Use a pair of perpendicular number lines, called axes, to define a coordinate system, with the intersection of the lines (the origin) arranged to coincide with the 0 on each line and a given point in the plane located by using an ordered pair of numbers, called its coordinates. Understand that the first number indicates how far to travel from the origin in the direction of one axis, and the second number indicates how far to travel in the direction of the second axis, with the convention that the names of the two axes and the coordinates correspond (e.g., x-axis and x-coordinate, y-axis and y-coordinate). (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals to hundredths, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used. (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Tools, materials, and skills are used to make things and carry out tasks. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Materials have many different properties. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Requirements are the limits to designing or making a product or system. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Requirements for a design include such factors as the desired elements and features of a product or system or the limits that are placed on the design. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Compare, contrast, and classify collected information in order to identify patterns. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Examine the trade-offs of using a product or system and decide when it could be used. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Generate measurement data by measuring lengths of several objects to the nearest whole unit, or by making repeated measurements of the same object. Show the measurements by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in whole-number units. (Grade 2) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch. Show the data by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in appropriate units— whole numbers, halves, or quarters. (Grade 3) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step "how many more" and "how many less" problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. (Grade 3) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Represent and interpret data. (Grade 4) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems. (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Represent and interpret data. (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Identify materials used to accomplish a design task based on a specific property, e.g., strength, hardness, and flexibility. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Identify a problem that reflects the need for shelter, storage, or convenience. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

  • 4 different balls to test, such as a super ball, tennis ball, basketball, kickball, baseball, etc.
  • 1 stopwatch per group
  • 1 yardstick per group
  • worksheets (see attachments)

Introduction/Motivation

Could you play tennis with a baseball or soccer with a basketball? (Listen to student responses.) What are all the different sports that are played with balls? (Possible answers: Volleyball, soccer, football, softball, baseball, ping pong, wiffle ball, bowling, dodge ball, golf, jacks, tennis, croquet, raquetball, squash, tetherball, etc.) What are some differences and similarities among the balls used for different sports?

How do the materials and design of a ball affect its characteristics? A soccer ball is designed to be bouncy, flexible and full of air, making it great to be kicked down a soccer field without injuring players. A bowling ball is dense, heavy and hard so that it can be rolled down a bowling alley to hopefully get a strike rather than a gutter ball. Each ball is designed with specific materials, making it appropriate for a particular sport.

Three photos: A girl throws a bowling ball down an alley towards two pins. Three girls jump near a net, trying to reach a white ball. A boy swings a bat at a small white ball.
copyright
Copyright © Microsoft Corporation, 1983-2001

When engineers are given a design task, whether it is designing a new volleyball that can bounce twice as high or a new airplane or skyscraper, they must study and analyze the properties of the materials they would like to use. What might be some material properties that they consider ? (Possible answers: Weight, strength, hardness and flexibility.)

Do you think it is important to understand materials and their properties, especially in the design of a ball used in a game? Well, imagine being the goalie in a soccer game that uses a bowling ball instead of a soccer ball. OUCH!!!

Procedure

Background Information

This activity coincides well with math graphing practice.

Recommended Resources:

Description of different graph types (line, scatter, bar, pie). Nice example pictures. https://www.keynotesupport.com/excel-basics/excel-chart-types.shtml

This is a link to an online game that teaches mean, median, and mode. http://www.kidsmathgamesonline.com/numbers/meanmedianmode.html

Allows children to create graphs and experiments with probability. http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/Graphing/

Instructions

  1. Gather materials and make copies of the worksheets.
  2. Explain the two tests that will be done to determine the bouncing properties of different balls.
  3. Divide the class into groups of three students each. One student serves as the recorder, one drops the ball, and one is the timekeeper.
  4. Assign each group a ball. After running both tests on that ball, have the groups switch balls (rotate) and test a new ball until all balls have been tested by each group.
  5. Conduct tests and record data.

Test 1: Ball Bounce Height Comparison

The first time you drop the ball do not take a measurement, just watch where the ball goes so the next time the observer knows where to look. This help to greatly increase the accuracy of the experiment. Drop a ball from 1 foot off of the floor, slightly in front of a yardstick. Measure the height the ball reaches after the first bounce and record. Repeat this test from 2 ft, 3 ft, and 1/2 ft. Do this test for each ball and record data. To increase accuracy, you may repeat each test three times and divide by 3 to find an average.

Test 2: Ball Bounce Time Comparison

Drop a ball from a height of 3 ft, timing from when the ball is released until the ball stops bouncing. Record the time. Repeat this test for each ball. Talk with the students about coming up with a system for releasing the ball and starting the stop watch. Possible suggestions are to have the same student drop the ball and start the watch, or have the two students count down from five.

  1. Graph group results. (If this activity is not able to be accompanied by a math lesson on graphing, introduce the topic before the activity starts or perhaps after the class has recorded its data and worked through it as a group.)
  2. Compare results as a class.

Attachments

Investigating Questions

  • Could you play basketball with a superball?
  • Do smaller balls bounce higher?
  • Do heavier balls bounce higher?
  • Why are your results different from other groups' results?
  • Why do some balls bounce higher than others?
  • What other tests can you perform with the balls?
  • Why is the design of a ball important?

Assessment

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Supporting Program

Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

Last modified: December 1, 2017

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