MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > At the Speed of Bowling

At the Speed of Bowling

Derek Parendo
131 9th Ave
Proctor, MN 55810
Author Profile


In this lab students will measure the energy of a bowling ball with vernier motion detectors. The students will calculate the energy of the ball at the beginning, mid point, and end of a bowling alley. Students will inquire about the relationships of speed, mass, energy, acceleration, and transfer of energy. To close out the activity students will create a lab conclusion using the data collected from observations and information collected from the motion detectors.

Learning Goals

Students will demonstrate higher thinking skills from the complexity of the lab. Students will use new vocabulary as the terms acceleration and speed will be used for the first time in this course. Students will inquire about possible outcomes of the experiment before the trial is run.

Context for Use

This is a one hour lab produced for beginning physics students with the vernier monitoring equipment. Once the program is downloaded the prep time for the lab is 1/2 hour. Groups of 5-6 students for 3-4 groups in a large hallway will work.

Subject: Physics:Classical Mechanics:Motion in One Dimension
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity:Short Activity:Demonstration, Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)

Description and Teaching Materials

Materials needed: Bowling ball, pins (10 pins are not needed), large hallway that can handle disruption for a period of time, 3 motion detector, computer or equivalent.

Students will mass the ball and roll it down the hallway and measure the motion of the ball. As the ball rolls students will record its velocity at three points. Students will measure the movement of the pins as they are struck by the ball. Discuss the relationship of the energy of the ball as is rolls down the hall and strikes the pins. Have students roll the ball at different velocities to create different relationships between mass, velocity, energy, and transfer of energy.

Teaching Notes and Tips

In the past we have not used the motion detectors, but we used stop watches and meter sticks to figure out velocity.


I assess the student lab write up by looking at the information collected and the conclusions they came up with. I look to see if students use the new vocabulary correctly, the relationships of the variables, and the accuracy of the measurements and error.


Physical Science grade 9-12 1) energy Transfer 2)Motion

References and Resources