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Free Falling

James Crisafulli

The purpose of the Picket Fence free fall lab is to measure the acceleration of a free
falling object to better than .5%. The main concept we are learning and trying to prove is that
gravity is -9.8 on earth. We used the photogate to find the acceleration.We had to calculate the
average acceleration due to gravity, we took 6 trails and found the average and percent error.

● Computer, program to calculate velocity and acceleration
● Photogate, beam of light travels on side to other measures time
● Picket Fences, clear plastic with evenly spaced black bars

1. Take the Photogate and attach it to stand and so that the picket
fence can fall freely through it.
2. Place a soft object under it to avoid damaging the equipment.
3. Connect the Photogate to the Dig/Sonic one input of the Vernier
computer interface.
4. Test to make sure it is set up right by blocking the Photogate with
your hand and looking at the status bar of Logger Pro at the top of your screen.
When your hand is blocking the Photogate the GateState should show it as
blocked and when you remove your hand it should say unblocked.
5. Click the Collect button to prepare the Photogate.
6. Get the Picket Fence and hold the top of it over the Photogate.
Then drop it before it enters the Photogate beam.. Make sure it goes down at a
straight through without moving left or right or hitting the Photogate.
7. Examine your graph. It shows the slope of velocity vs time or
measure of acceleration.
8. If the acceleration of your Picket Fence graph looks consat then fit
a straight line to the data.
9. Click on the velocity graph once to select it
10. click Linear Fit button to fit the line y = mt+b to your data then
record the slope of the line.
11. To get a reliably slope repeat steps 6 through 10 five times.
12. Record data in data table.























Average Acceleration due to gravity, g
Actual value for acceleration of
gravity and cite your source using
APA Citations:

± 0.066


Wagon, J. (1999). Acceleration Due To Gravity. Retrieved December 22, 2015,

Percent Error

-0.007 %

1. The shape of the position vs. time graph for the free fall, is a graph with the
time as the x-axis and position as the y-axis. The line is a curved and is increasing
in distance over time. There are red dots to show the data from the lab, starting at
2. The shape of the velocity vs. time graph for this lad is as following. The
graph shows the velocity over time. The x-axis is time and the velocity is the y-axis.
The data goes in a linear line, starting a little less than 1.
3. If you were to throw the picket fence up through the photogate velocity
would not change and the acceleration would go up then return to 0 then increase
again. The velocity will not change because when it is thrown up the the velocity
will increase but when it comes back down it will decrease, meaning that it did not
change. The acceleration will also stay at 0 because of garity. No, if you drop the
fence from a higher height it will not change the graphs. The graph will be faster
and longer but when the math is done it will be the same.
4. The value of g does vare depending on where it is on the earth. G varies
because the planet is not perfectly spherical or uniformly dense. Also g is weaker at
the equator due to centrifugal forces produced by the planet's rotation and at higher
altitudes further from Earth's center. The closer you are to the core gravity
increases, so if you are on a mountain the gravity is more than if you are in the
water. The difference is less than 0.2%.

The picket fence lab experiment determined the value of gravity which agreed with the
accepted value of gravity. The percent error was off by -0.007%. This did prove the theory that
gravity is 9.8. Based on table 1 the average acceleration due to gravity was only off by .007%.
9.7235 is the average acceleration due to gravity based on the data done in this lab. The real
average acceleration due to gravity is 9.8m/s/s, this is very close to the experiments results. An
example of gravity outside of the experiment that proves the acceleration of gravity is when an
apple falls off a tree, the apple would increases in speed by 9.8m/s for every second of falling.

So if you were sitting under a tree and an apple fell of you would not have time to move before it
hits you in the head.

Writers, S. (2013, August 20). New map reveals Earth's gravity not the same around the globe. In
PHYSICS NEWS. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from
Does gravity vary across the surface of the Earth? (Intermediate) . (2014). In Ask an
astronomer. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from