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College Humanities and Arts

School Bridging & Preparatory


Qualification 24SCF Certificate IV in Science
Module VPSE451 Kinematics

Certificate IV in Science 2016

Investigative Project:

Gravitational Acceleration

Assessment total: 20% Due Date: 24th June 2016

The investigative project report is in two sections : the first is a research into the historical and theoretical
basis behind the determination of gravitational acceleration and the second will be the practical report on
your group investigation including your own role in the investigation.

The first section will be your own research into gravitational acceleration with references to the work
done historically and current methods used to measure this rate. When referencing Scientists refer only
to the work relevant to this investigation. The theory behind the formula used in your investigations
should also be included in this section.

A draft of the report should be submitted to your Academic Literacy teacher by the 16th June for feedback
before the due date.

The practical report is based on three experiments with the same aim but using three different methods.
Your analysis will be a comparison between the precision and accuracy of each method and a discussion
on any shortcomings of the methods used.

Format for the report will be similar to the practical report writing with the exception that the report will
be prefaced by the research section (label the heading as Introduction or Theory) and will have three
separate Method and Result/calculation sections. Only one Aim, Analysis/discussion and Conclusion
section.

If submitting electronically, diagrams and hand written sheets need to be scanned in pdf format and
included as pages within one pdf file. Separate jpg images will not be accepted.

Revised: May 15 Alex Prygodicz


Review date: May 17
Version: 3 © Melbourne Polytechnic 2015 | Page 1 of 4
Cert IV Science Investigative project Vocational Pathways Dep’t

Investigative Project
Gravitational Acceleration

Purpose: In this investigation you will be working within a group to determine the acceleration due to
gravity using a number of different methods which may include ;
(a) ticker tape timing ,
(b) stroboscopic analysis ,
(c) electronic timing ,
or other suitable methods, and to determine which method gives the most accurate and
precise value for gravitational acceleration.

The report is in two sections : the first will be a research into the historical and theoretical
basis behind the determination of gravitational acceleration and the second will be the
practical report on your group investigation including your own role in the investigation.

Theory: In the absence of air resistance all objects fall at the same rate of acceleration, namely
2
9.81m/s at sea level. Galileo was the first to suggest that objects regardless of their weight
fall at a constant rate. There are a number of methods for measuring this rate, in Galileo’s
day this involved developing or modifying some very primitive means of timing.
Even today measuring this rate of acceleration requires some care.
The ticker tape method is limited because the friction of the tape passing through the ticker
timer reduces the rate of acceleration being measured. However larger masses may be
affected less by the friction of the tape and this may be worth investigating.
Other methods involve non intrusive techniques which do not restrict the movement of the
falling object. Timing methods and set up need to be precise to give worthwhile results.
Stroboscopic photography involves taking a time exposure of the falling object while a strobe
light flashes at a set rate. The photograph is processed and then later analysed
graphically. From the v-t graph

a = v / t

Electronic timing involves the falling object interrupting a light beam which is incident on a
photocell connected to an electronic timer. The time and distance information is analysed
algebraically using

s = 1/2 a t2 (if u = 0)

The ticker tape method was detailed in the previous prac. The following two methods are
outlined as follows.

Revised: May 15 Alex Prygodicz


Review date: May 17
Version: 2 © Melbourne Polytechnic 2015 | Page 2 of 4
Cert IV Science Investigative project Vocational Pathways Dep’t

Stroboscopic Analysis.

Apparatus: SLR or Polaroid Camera


Tripod
Strobe light
Stand
Electromagnet
Ruler
Ball Bearing
D.C. Power Supply

Procedure: A camera is set up on a tripod so that it is directly in front of the stand with the
electromagnet at the top of the frame. Adjust the position of the camera so that at least
one meter of fall will be photographed. Position the strobe light so that the falling object
will be illuminated from the side.
With the apparatus set up as shown adjust the flash rate of the strobe to 25 flashes per
second. Connect the electromagnet to the power supply and adjust the voltage so that it
just holds the ball bearing.
With the camera aperture at its widest opening, shutter speed set at B and a sharply
focussed view through the viewfinder turn off the room lights.
With the strobe light flashing, open the shutter by depressing the cable release, switch off
the power supply to release the ball bearing. Close the shutter when the ball bearing
completes its fall.
Take one exposure for each member of the group. Record the number of the exposure
and camera settings in your book and on the sheet provided. You will need this number
to retrieve your photograph when developed.

Electronic Timing

Apparatus: Electronic Timer


Light and Photocell
Stand
Electromagnet
Steel strip
DC power supply

Procedure: Set up the stand with the electromagnet and connect to the power supply. Adjust the
voltage on the power supply so that the electromagnet just holds the steel strip in a
vertical position.
Mount the light beam and photocell at the base of the strip so that it is just below the
point where it interrupts the beam. (Take care with this adjustment otherwise the initial
velocity will not be zero.)
Reset the timer to zero, switch off the power supply to the electromagnet to release the
steel strip and record the time. Repeat 3 to 5 times to ensure consistency.
Measure the length of the strip as accurately as possible.

Revised: May 15 Alex Prygodicz


Review date: May 17
Version: 2 © Melbourne Polytechnic 2015 | Page 3 of 4
Cert IV Science Investigative project Vocational Pathways Dep’t

Analysis: Using the data obtained from the timer determine the acceleration due to gravity using
the equation of motion

s = ½ g t2
Determine the error in the acceleration and quote your result to the appropriate degree
of accuracy.

How does this compare to the known value of g?

What are the main sources of error in this technique?

How would the length of the strip affect the accuracy?

When the photographs are developed, determine the velocity of the ball bearing in each
time interval from their displacements using

v = s / t

Plot velocity against time on graph paper and from the graph determine the acceleration
using

a = v / t

How does this value compare with the previous value you determined ?

What are the biggest sources of error using this technique?

How could they be reduced?

Conclusion: Summarise the results for each method (including the ticker timer method) and your
conclusion as to the precision and accuracy of your results.

Bibliography: Include all your references at the end of your report in the bibliography.

Revised: May 15 Alex Prygodicz


Review date: May 17
Version: 2 © Melbourne Polytechnic 2015 | Page 4 of 4