Science Experiment – Friction

By AG Education | December 19, 2017

Discover the power of friction on different surfaces

About this experiment

Frictional forces play a role in many activities – riding a bike, going bowling, and even lighting a match. When two surfaces rub together they create friction, which works to slow movement down. In this experiment you will discover the strength of the frictional force created by different types of material.

Materials

  • Variety of textured materials – you could use sandpaper, a tea towel, grippy mats, foil, parchment paper, a piece of rug, or even dirt
  • Material to make ramps (one per textured material, plus one extra) – you could use strong cardboard or wooden planks
  • A toy car (or if there are a few of you doing the experiment, you can use a car each and ‘race’)
  • Tape or glue to secure materials to your plants
  • Stopwatch and measuring tape

Steps

  1. Tape or glue each textured material to a separate plank/piece of cardboard. Leave one blank as a test ramp.
  2. Set up your ramps against a stack of books, some steps or other raised object. Make sure all the ramps are sitting at the same angle.
  3. Test your toy car on the bare ramp by placing it at the top and letting go. Don’t push the car, as this will alter your results!
  4. Using your stopwatch, time how long it takes the car to come to a complete stop. Use your tape measure to calculate how far down (or past) the ramp the car travelled.
  5. Feel the different materials on your other ramps.
    Describe the textures. Do they feel rough, smooth or slippery? Which material do you think might slow down the movement of the car the quickest?
  6. Send your toy car down each ramp. Record the time it takes for the car to stop on each ramp and how far it travels.
    Were your predictions about the speed of the car on each ramp correct? Which material creates the strongest frictional force? (This will be the ramp with the slowest time/shortest distance)