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PATH OF A TENNIS BALL
INTRODUCTION: Parabola’s occur in many places. Some examples are radio telescopes, light relectors, bridges and the McDonalds logo. By performing this experiment we aim to find out if the path of a thrown tennis ball also travels in a parabolic path. METHOD: We set up the experiment by marking vertical lines 0.5 metres apart on the whiteboard. Zac then threw a tennis ball from the bottom left hand corner of the board so that its curved path left the far side of the board. Students standing at 0.5 metre intervals immediately marked the board at the point where the ball passed their line. Measurements were then made with a metre ruler to record the height of the ball at each interval. The co-ordinates of each point, starting with (0,0), were then typed into an Excel spreadsheet and a scatterplot produced. We then clicked Chart – Add Trendline to produce a parabolic model of the tennis balls path. We also ticked the set intercept = 0, equation and R2 options. RESULTS: This photo shows two failed attempts at the experiment and a third attempt (red line) which appeared to give a smooth curve.

Page 2 of 2 Shown below is the scatter plot with the “best fit” parabola on it.

CONCLUSION: The scatterplot shows a very good fit using a parabolic model. The R2 value of 0.9969 gives very strong evidence that a thrown tennis ball does travel along a parabolic path. The equation obtained can be used to predict other co-ordinates along the path (interpolation and extrapolation). Further investigation could see this experiment repeated with different trajectories. A video of the balls path, used with appropriate software would eliminate a lot of human and measurement errors. Other types of ball could also be used. Eg. Cricket ball, table tennis ball, badminton shuttle. A similar approach could also be taken to investigating other parabolic paths eg. Water falling from a fountain. J. Trevaskis 6 Sep 2009

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