Home Project Ideas Project Guide Ask An Expert Blog Careers Teachers Parents Students

Slip Sliding Away: Experimenting with Friction

Time Required Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues


As you headed up the mountain to enjoy your last ski trip, you may have noticed a sign reading: Hazard! Icy Roads Ahead—Put On Your Chains. Putting chains on car tires increases the resistance between the tires and the road allowing the car to "grip" the road. This resistance to sliding is called friction. In this experiment, you will be investigating how to increase and decrease the friction between two surfaces.


The goal of this project is to compare friction between dry and icy surfaces by measuring slip angle and slip height.


La Né Powers

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Slip Sliding Away: Experimenting with Friction" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 20 June 2014. Web. 30 July 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Phys_p013.shtml?from=Blog>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, June 20). Slip Sliding Away: Experimenting with Friction. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Phys_p013.shtml?from=Blog

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

Last edit date: 2014-06-20


Friction is the resistance to motion when two objects rub together.

For example, would it be easier to ride your sled down an icy snow-covered hillside or down a rough gravel driveway? It is easier to ride your sled down the icy hillside because both the runners on your sled and the hillside are smooth and slide past one another with little resistance. The icy hillside is an example of a surface with low friction.

Riding your sled down the gravel driveway is difficult due to the rough surface of the driveway resisting the motion of the sled. The gravel driveway is an example of a surface with high friction.

Terms and Concepts

  • friction
  • motion
  • resistance
  • gravity


  • What is friction?
  • How can friction be overcome?
  • When is high friction beneficial? When is it not beneficial?
  • When is low friction beneficial? When is it not beneficial?


  • Introduction to General Physics Concepts:
    Hewitt, Paul G, 2002. "Conceptual Physics," Prentice Hall, IL.
  • Simple Physics Concepts for Kids:
    Keller, R.W., 2005. "Real Science for Kids: Physics, Level 1," Albuquerque, NM: Gravitas Publications, Inc.

Materials and Equipment

  • 2 2×4s cut to 0.5 m length (about 20 in)
  • small plastic tub or jar with lid
  • sand
  • water
  • freezer
  • books
  • metric ruler
  • protractor

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

Experimental Procedure

  1. Soak one piece of wood in water and freeze overnight.
  2. Fill the plastic tub with sand and close the lid.
  3. Build a ramp using several books and the piece of wood.
  4. Determine the ramp height and ramp angle at which the tub of sand first slips down the ramp.
    1. Place the tub of sand onto the ramp.
    2. If it slips down the ramp, remove the tub, lower the ramp height and try again.
    3. If it does not slip, remove the tub, raise the ramp height and try again.
    4. Make your changes in height small enough so that you can accurately determine the ramp height and ramp angle just high enough to allow the tub to slip down the ramp.
  5. At the angle that the tub first moves, measure the height of the book pile with the meter stick and the angle of the ramp with the protractor. Record your results.
  6. Conduct the same experiment (steps 2–5) with the icy wood.
  7. For any experiment, it is important to do multiple trials to assure that your results are consistent. Repeat steps 2–5 for at least three separate trials for each surface, and record your results. It will be easier to keep track of your results if you write them down in a table in your lab notebook. Here is a sample table for data collection:
    Sample Data Table
    Slip Angle
    Slip Height
    Average Slip Angle
    Average Slip Height
    Dry Wood 1        
    Icy Wood 1        

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.


  • Conduct the same experiment with two dry surfaces—increase the friction by covering one board with sandpaper.
  • Cover the surface of one piece of wood with oil or foil to decrease the friction.
  • Instead of changing the surface of the wood, change the bottom of the tubs by rubbing with oil or covering with sandpaper.

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

Ask an Expert

The Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.

Ask an Expert

Related Links

If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

Mechanical engineer building prototype

Mechanical Engineer

Mechanical engineers are part of your everyday life, designing the spoon you used to eat your breakfast, your breakfast's packaging, the flip-top cap on your toothpaste tube, the zipper on your jacket, the car, bike, or bus you took to school, the chair you sat in, the door handle you grasped and the hinges it opened on, and the ballpoint pen you used to take your test. Virtually every object that you see around you has passed through the hands of a mechanical engineer. Consequently, their skills are in demand to design millions of different products in almost every type of industry. Read more
female mechanical engineering technician

Mechanical Engineering Technician

You use mechanical devices every day—to zip and snap your clothing, open doors, refrigerate and cook your food, get clean water, heat your home, play music, surf the Internet, travel around, and even to brush your teeth. Virtually every object that you see around has been mechanically engineered or designed at some point, requiring the skills of mechanical engineering technicians to create drawings of the product, or to build and test models of the product to find the best design. Read more

Looking for more science fun?

Try one of our science activities for quick, anytime science explorations. The perfect thing to liven up a rainy day, school vacation, or moment of boredom.

Find an Activity