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Slippery Slopes and the Angle of Repose

Active Time
30-45 minutes
Total Project Time
30-45 minutes
Key Concepts
Physics, Gravity, Forces, Angle of repose

Introduction

Have you ever seen an avalanche or landslide roll down a hill? Why is it that at one moment, everything seems fine, then suddenly the mountain begins to slump? It has something to do with how the earth or snow is piled up on the mountain. Generally, granular materials such as snow or earth pile up relatively well. However, if the slope angle gets too steep, the materials will start to slide down the slope. This critical slope angle, also called the angle of repose, is different for different materials. In this activity, you will create your own little avalanches and determine the angle of repose for different materials along the way!

Credits

Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,200 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

  • Adult helper
  • Scissors
  • Plastic cup, 16 oz.
  • Printer pager
  • Baking dish
  • Pen
  • Ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Lentils (2 cups)
  • Powdered sugar (2 cups)
  • Table salt (2 cups)
  • Rice (2 cups)
  • Fluor
  • Scientific calculator
  • Optional: Protractor
    These are the materials needed for the slippery slopes activity.

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Active Time
30-45 minutes
Total Project Time
30-45 minutes
Key Concepts
Physics, Gravity, Forces, Angle of repose