Balls have been common playthings throughout history, but the bouncing ball was only invented in 1965, by a chemist named Norman Stingley. He created a super bouncy material he called Zectron, and soon bouncy balls became commonplace. Investigating this toy that we tend to take for granted can make for a fascinating science fair project, with options for younger and older students alike.
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Homemade Bouncy Ball
Make your own bouncy balls by mixing borax and water into a paste and adding PVA glue, corn flour and food colouring. Once you have successfully made a bouncy ball or two, note down your hypothesis on what effect changing the procedure would have on the end result. For example, what if the ratio of the ingredients was altered? What about if the ingredients themselves were substituted for something else, such as exchanging the corn flour for pudding mix? Test your hypothesis and record the results.
Bouncy Ball Comparison
Test the bounciness of a selection of different balls, such as a golf ball, tennis ball, baseball and basketball. Note your hypothesis before you begin your experiment: which ball do you expect to bounce highest and why? Drop each ball from the same height on to a hard, flat surface and measure the height of the resulting bounce. Compare the results with your hypothesis. Now investigate if each ball can be used for a different sport, such as using a tennis ball to play basketball and a baseball to play tennis. Record the results and note why each game did or didn't work with a different ball.
In this experiment, you will investigate whether altering the air pressure in a basketball affects how it bounces. After writing your hypothesis, bounce the ball filled with air and record the height of the bounce. Now release a small amount of air from the ball and throw it again. Use an air pressure gauge to record exactly how much air is in the ball throughout the experiment. Continue to release air and repeat the procedure. Display your results in a table and explain why the air pressure affects the bounce of the ball.
Effects of Temperature
In this experiment, you will investigate whether temperature has any effect on how a bouncy ball bounces. Begin by recording the bounce height of the ball at room temperature, ensuring you note what the room temperature is. Submerge the ball in ice water for five minutes and bounce it again, recording the height of the bounce and the temperature of the water. Submerge the ball in hot water and repeat the process. Display the results in a table and investigate why there was or was not any difference in the bounce height of the ball at different temperatures.
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