STEM – Conservation Is Not Just About Recycling (Mini-Math Lesson On Energy)(Bouncing Balls, Data & Regression)

Another STEM experiment today that students can easily do with just a few tools/materials:

  • Four different types of balls (so think tennis ball, basketball, ping-pong ball, racket ball, golf ball….)
  • Paper to cover an area of a wall so you can put measures on the wall (or use tape, or tape a measuring tape to a wall vertically).  We are going to be dropping the balls from given heights and record the height of the first bounce, so need to measure vertically.
  • Measuring tape to measure and mark the wall in 1-inch markings up to 6 feet

The idea behind the lesson today is to explore the difference between expected kinetic  energy and observed kinetic energy. Students will record the data of the balls dropped from different heights and their rebound and look at different scatter plots (Drop Height, Rebound) and (Rebound Height, Drop Height), find regression lines and analyze the meaning of the slope in the context of the situation.

There is also an extension activity, where they look at successive rebound heights of a balls bounces when dropped from a given height. This time they will see an exponential relationship (versus linear) and talk about what this means in terms of energy. The whole experiment is exploring the conservation of energy and momentum.

In both parts of the activities, students are encouraged to use their own materials and collect their own data – this obviously makes things a lot more fun and engaging. However, sample data is provided as well if they don’t have the materials. There is even a ball-bounce simulation provided for the second part (successive bounces), using the ability to insert images into and sliders to control movement.

The activity used is adapted from an exploration in Fostering STEM Education with Casio Technology, Casio 2013. I have made a version here, link provided below, and also provided the PDF of the original activity which goes into more detail and provides some hand-held calculator tips and suggestions. The link to the PDF is also below along with a video overview of the activity in the version.

  1. STEM-Conservation is NOT Just About Recycling ( Data & Regression)
  2. STEM Conservation Is Not Just About Recycling (PDF)
  3. Video Overview – STEM – Conservation is NOT Just About Recycling (Data Regression Simulation)

The tool being used in these mini-math lessons is the FREE web-based math software,

Remember – if you want to save and/or modify any of these activities, create a free account.  Some useful links below: