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Lab 2: Accelerated Motion – Reaction Time

PSCI 1030 ONLINE: LAB 2 – Reaction Speed

PSCI 1030 Online Lab 2 – Reaction Speed


The purpose of this lab is to explore the timescale of “human reaction time”

Read over the entire lab procedure below, then complete each task and record your findings in the data section at the end of the lab.

Upon completion, save this document as a PDF with your name in the filename in the form “Yournamehere-reaction.pdf” and upload to the assignment box on online campus.


When we see something happen that requires a response from us, we may think we react to it in an instant, but this isn’t quite true. First, we have to recognize and process what our senses tell us. Then subconsciously (or consciously) decide if it is something that requires our action and decide what that action will be. Next, our brain must send the signal via the nervous system to the appropriate muscles. All of this takes time. How much time depends upon many things, not the least of which is our state of alertness!


· One person will hold a ruler vertically while a second person will hold his or her hand adjacent to the bottom edge of the ruler, ready to grasp it.

· When the first person lets go of the ruler, the second person will try to catch (grasp) the ruler before it falls past their fingers.

· The distance the ruler falls should be measured between the ruler’s bottom end and the point where the person caught it.

· To calculate the reaction time of the person, you will need the distance the ruler fell, possible other constants, and one of the kinematic equations discussed. Which one?


A. One person’s reaction – unanticipated

1. The person holding the ruler will let go without giving any indication to the person trying to catch it as when he or she will let go.

2. The person trying to catch the ruler must react as quickly as they see the ruler begin to drop.

3. Perform four trials and then find the average distance the ruler dropped.

4. Based on the distance dropped, use a kinematic equation to estimate your reaction time. Find the average reaction time of the four trials.

LAB 2 – Reaction Speed Data Sheet


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1. Record fall distances and calculate reaction times. Which equation did you use to calculate time? Show a sample calculation of reaction time, based on how far the ruler fell from one of your trials. (10 pts)

Trial 1

Fall distance

Reaction Time


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Which equation did you use? Click here to enter text.

Show an example calculation: Click here to enter text.

2. Calculate the percent difference between your best and worst measurements (note: not percent error!). (5 pts)

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3. A classmate had the idea of constructing a scale of “time” that could be pasted over the meter markings so that a person doing this activity could just read their reaction time right off the ruler (New Product Idea!). How would your classmate go about making this scale for time? Would the markings for tenths of a second be evenly spaced or not? Explain. (5 pts)

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Rev 15 September 2020 1 of 2

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