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Picket Fence Free Fall Lab

We say an object is in free fall when the only force acting on it is the earths gravitational
force. No other forces can be acting; in particular, air resistance must be either absent or so small
as to be ignored. When the object in free fall is near the surface of the earth, the gravitational
force on it is nearly constant. This acceleration is usually represented with the symbol g.
Standards & Eslr (always)
To measure the acceleration of a freely falling body (g) with high accuracy (less
than 5% error) using a Picket Fence and a Photogate
Procedure & Materials
Logger Pro software
Gravlab file

ULI (universal lab interface)

Picket Fence
soft landing pad

Vernier Photogate
Ringstand with clamp
thoughtful students

Your instructor will have set up the equipment and will direct you to the correct program
Answer the preliminary questions before conducting the lab


Position the picket fence directly above the photogate, oriented vertically.
Ensure that a soft landing pad is available at the ground to protect the fence.
Click collect on the program (gravlab) and wait a couple seconds.
Release the gate so it falls straight down through the gate without scraping
Examine the diagnostic graph of v vs t. If it is a straight line, the data should be good, if
not, do it again.
Record all data pairs from the data list
Leave the drop station so another group may conduct the lab.

Later, graph your data and get a trend line, and display the equation of the trend line. See
the download instructions for graphing and analysis with excel in the group locker. Include
this graph in your lab report.
Extrapolate the slope of the line from the trend line. Think: what does this slope mean?
Analysis Questions (Write each question in your lab report.)
Questions 1-3 are preliminary, ANSWER BEFORE CONDUCTING THE LAB
Inspect your picket fence. You will be dropping it through a Photogate to measaure g.
The distance measured from one edge of a black band to the same edge of the next band, is
5.0cm. What additional information would be needed to determine the average speed of the
Picket Fence as it moves through the Photogate? (this is IF you were determining the speed
manually whereas in actuallity, the computer will determine the speeds)
If an object is moving with constant acceleration, what is the shape of its velocity vs.
time graph?
Does the intitial velocity of an object have anything to do with its acceleration? For
example, compared to dropping an object, if you throw it downward would the acceleration be
different after you released it?
Questions 4-10 are post lab questions
Describe in WORDS the shape of the distance vs time graph for the free fall. (thought
question do not graph it!)
Desicribe in WORDS the shape of the velocity vs time graph. How is this related to the
shape of the distance vs. time graph?
Compare your measurements to the generally accepted value of g (see notes!) Does your
value fall within the range of accepted error? If so, your experiment agrees with the accepted
Inspect your velocity vs time graph. How would the associated acceleration vs. time
graph look? SKETCH your prediction.
Would dropping the Picket Fence from higher above the photograte change any of the
parameters (velocity, acceleration, etc) measured? Explain
Would throwing the picket fence downward, but letting go before it enters the photogate,
change any of the parameters you measured? Explain. How about throwing the picket fence
upward? Explain
How would adding air resistance change the results?
Calculate %Error
Be sure to include all required components in your final lab report, formatted properly!