Battle of the Spheres

Submitting Organization: Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University

Grade Levels: 9th Grade

Subject Area: Science

Standards Alignment: Next Generation Science Standards


Description of the Activity:

This activity is based on Newton’s Second Law of Motion. In this activity, students will consider the problem “why do three different spheres roll down an inclined plane at different rates and deliver different forces?”. Using an inclined ramp, students will allow 3 spheres of different mass to roll into a empty milk carton. Through several trials, the students will measure how far the milk carton is moved from the impact of the sphere and graph the results.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which sphere moved the carton the farthest, Why?
  2. Which sphere moved the carton the least, Why?
  3. When, in the experiment, did the sphere have potential energy?
  4. When, in the experiment, did the sphere have kinetic energy?
  5. Which marble had the greatest potential energy?
  6. Which marble had the least kinetic energy?

Resources Needed:

  • Inclined ramp
  • Metric ruler
  • 3 identical spheres of differing mass (i.e. wood, plastic, glass, or steel)
  • Empty milk carton
  • Graph paper.

Link to further resources: