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Explore Force and Friction with a Zip Line

Engineer a zip line using a jump rope and pale! Explore the physics of force and friction. Calculate how the adjustment of mass, slope and acceleration can change the distance and speed of your zipline. This activity can be adapted to all age groups. For our littlest participants check out our fun SnackTime Science video on Friction and explore how friction plays a role in how far your object travels. For our older participants check out The Science Behind ZipLining to learn more about  speed, velocity and gravitational acceleration to expand on this project and scale your design.  


1. Grab your pail, jump rope, and something/someone to transport. If you don't have these items on hand you can work to engineer them using objects around the house (Ex. string, cups, straws, etc.)
2. Detach the handle from the pail. 
3. Attach the pail handle to the object you're transporting. Alternatively you can use the entire pail to hold your object.  
4. Find a location where you can secure your jump rope so that it slopes from high to low. We used our stair railing and front door knob. 
5. Secure the object your are transporting around the jump rope (with or without the pail). 
6. Starting from the highest point of your zipline apply a force (push) to your object and release it from your grasp. 
7. Observe, adjust and experiment with different levels of force and how they impact the speed and distance your object travels. Can you increase (add a piece of tape to your handel) or decrease (add a bit of oil to your handel) the amount of friction? How does this affect speed and distance? 

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