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Investigating the Effect of Mass on the Terminal Speed of Free-Falling Coffee Filters

Submitted to Dr. Sithy Maharoof for Physics 1 for Scientists and Engineers (PHYS-111)


I investigated the relationship between the mass and terminal speed of falling coffee filters dropped from a height of 2 meters.

General Education Connections

  • Communicate ideas in written, oral and other modes as appropriate to a situation and audience 
  • Apply quantitative and scientific reasoning skills relevant to a field of study 
  • Evaluate sources of information for accuracy, relevance and reliability
  • Explore issues through creative, interdisciplinary and innovative approaches

I spent a lot of time revising my Signature Assignment drafts to make the content of each section brief and clear, and consistent with the instructions. This arduous process helped me communicate my ideas more clearly. Additionally, creating an abstract required me to understand my experiment well in order to summarize it clearly.

I applied quantitative and scientific reasoning skills when discerning whether to use a scatter plot, a bar graph or a line graph and when interpreting slopes from trendlines. I also used mathematical reasoning to identify relationships between the variables in physics equations and predict the behavior of the falling filters in my experiment.

In my first draft of the Signature Assignment, I used a polynomial regression line but was unsure whether I was doing the right thing. I went back and forth between my introduction and the textbook and my discussion section as I put it together. After a meeting with my professor, I realized a power regression should be the best way to model the relationship between the mass and terminal speed of the filters and learned how to add it to a scatter plot in Microsoft Excel.

Throughout the project, I ensured that the sources I cited came from trusted authors and were consistent with the course textbook. I applied the editing and revision skills I use in my English and language arts course as I worked to clearly communicate scientific concepts simply without compromising the integrity of the science.


My first challenge was learning how to use the Tracker video analysis software. I encountered additional difficulties because my video was loading horizontally instead of vertically. I had to troubleshoot to figure out how to rotate the video. My second challenge was building fluency in the APA style format. I am used to working with MLA, so I had to spend time studying APA conventions to ensure that I used the style consistently. This experience was also my first time writing a scientific paper. I also spent a lot of time figuring out how much context to provide and the most logical way to present the information in the introduction. Undoubtedly, I underestimated the time it would take to complete a “3-to-5 page” paper and was racing time to meet the deadline.


I am a high school student who is interested in studying engineering. Engineering involves the application of physics and other areas to solve real-world challenges. A complete understanding of the drag force discussed in my Signature Assignment is important when designing projectiles, aircraft or any vehicle that moves through the air. Additionally, the force is explained by Newton’s laws of motion. Engineers take these laws into consideration in the design and construction of any structure.