Sunday, February 22, 2015

Build a Hanging Funicular - Gravity Car

A funicular is a counterbalance system in which two vehicles are attached with ropes through pulleys or rails to bring goods up and down hills. They were commonly used in remote mountain villages especially in the Alps, and also believed to be used for building the pyramids in Egypt.

The Neroberg Bahn in Wiesbaden, Germany is a funicular powered by water.

This picture shows two rail tracks; one for each vehicle. In the lower left-hand corner of the photo, the cable attaching the cars as well as the pulleys it rests upon are visible.

This picture shows the water being discharged from the vehicle at the bottom of the hill. The water tank is filled at the top of the hill, and the weight of the water plus the passenger weight must overcome the passenger weight of the other vehicle (plus friction).

We had a kit for our funicular, but I think the kit is simple enough it could be easily duplicated with a trip to the hardware store.

The first step was to set up a string in a loop, across the room, with a difference in height.

Our kit enabled three different set-ups. The funicular set-up only required a loop, so the three pulleys visible in the attachment mechanism were not required for this activity. Only a way to attach a string in such a way that it stayed open in a loop and could be tightened was required. (c-clamp and piece of wood)

Two carriages each containing two pulleys and connected by a string were rested on the looped string.

At the top, the string connecting the two vehicles passed through a pulley.

When coins were added to the upper vehicle the extra weight made it travel down the cable.

A similar set-up can be achieved using only one vehicle. Instead of the second vehicle, a person is required to pull the string down at the top lifting the single vehicle up the slope. The third way this system can be set-up is by using the big pulley with the hand crank. When the ropes connecting the vehicles pass through the large hand-crank pulley at the top of the slope, the crank controls the vehicle location on the loop instead of gravity.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

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