Grade: Middle
Subject: Science

#655. Effect of Height on Potential Energy

Science, level: Middle
Posted Fri Oct 9 08:37:43 PDT 1998 by Kayenta (
Grand County Middle School, Moab, Utah
Materials Required: toy cars, tagboard strips or other materials for ramps; textbooks; milk cartons.
Activity Time: 30 minutes
Concepts Taught: potential and kinetic energy; reinforcement of vocabulary of force & motion unit


This Lab demonstrates and reinforces the concepts of potential and kinetic energy.

toy car
6 text books
tagboard or other material for track
3 - 1 cup milk cartons
meter stick or tape measure

1. Place the track so that one end is on top of one of the books and track slants down to the floor.
Tape the track to the floor so that it does not move.
2. With the cartons, build a tower at the lower end of th track: two cartons on the bottom, one on
3. Place the car at the top of the track and allow the car to roll down the track (do not push the
4. Measure fromt he bottom of the track to the carton tht was knocked off. Measure the
distance from the lower end of the track to the edge of the carton that is farthest away from
the track. (if the car did not knock over the cartons, record this information.)
5. Raise the track by placing 3 books total under the first book. Then rebuild the tower of
6. Place the car at the top of the track and allow the car to roll down the track. Measure how far
the carton traveled. Repeat this 3 times and record information.
7. Repeat the activity with the ramp six books high.

Recording and Analyzing the Data:
**Make a chart or graph in your notebook that will organize the results of your trials.

1. How did the height of the hill change in your demonstrations?

2. What kind of energy did the car have at the top of the hill?

3. What kind of energy did the car have as it was rolling down the hill?

4. Whe did the car have the least energy... at one book? three books? six books? When did the car
have the most energy?

5. How does the height of the hill affect the amount of potential energy in the car?

6. How did this demonstration show that energy is converted to other forms?

7. Write a paragraph or two, explaining the demonstration and its results. Be sure to use as many
of the vocabulary words as you can, that you have learned in studying this unit. Underline any
vocabulary words that you use.

(some words may include: potential energy, kinetic energy, acceleration, speed, momentum, heat
energy, sound energy, mechanical energy, velocity)