Does material of a football affect the distance it travels

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Does material of a football affect the distance it travels

Postby zandemom » Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:29 pm

We have chosen the following science project - "Which type of football, rubber, foam or plastic, will throw the farthest?" This is for a 3rd grade gifted class. The footballs are all of the same basic size but weigh different amounts so we think that is the variable we are testing. Can you please provide some basic information for my son on how weight affects distance. We have found two conflicting answers thus far - one saying the heavier object will go farther and another saying that the lighter will travel the farthest. Thank you.
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Project Question: Three footballs thrown of different materials - rubber, foam or plastic, will travel the farthest? We are thinking it's weight.
Project Due Date: March but the background research is due Feb 1st
Project Status: I am just starting

Re: Does material of a football affect the distance it trave

Postby Goldenzenith » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:35 am

Hi zandemom,

Sounds like an interesting project for a third grader! However, I just wanted to point out a couple of aspects that might complicate the project. First, it involves a bit of physics because if you're throwing each ball, you're creating projectiles, like so: http://library.thinkquest.org/06aug/022 ... age005.gif. You're also starting with a velocity that's not zero meters/second, so that too is a variable. Additionally, because each ball is made of different materials (regardless of weight), that's another independent variable. Therefore, if you want to focus on weight alone, you could try to find footballs of the same material but different weights. As for the initial velocity of the ball, I wouldn't worry too much about it if your son throws in a constant and consistent nature each time. Besides, it's ridiculous what football launching machines cost! :D

Because this is the third grade level, explanations for hypotheses can be and usually are on an intuitive level, i.e. The heavier balls in general will not go farther because they will fall faster than the lighter balls. Of course, the actual reason you give is up to you. Also recall that a hypothesis is pretty much an educated guess at what will happen. It can be supported, refuted, or qualified by the results, so even if the results contradict the hypothesis, that's perfectly fine! Your son will just need to understand why that was so through his own explanation, something appropriate for his grade level.

Hope this helps and good luck!
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