Activity 4B: Granny on the Ramp: Exploring Forces and Motion - High School Version

Part 1: Move “Pom-Pom Granny” up and down varying ramps to observe the effect of slope on force and velocity. Students will work in groups of four to identify the different parts of a ramp and to calculate ramp length and slope. They will also learn about the accessibility issues that come into play when someone has to use a wheelchair. Students will investigate forces and motion as they learn the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

Part 2: In groups of three, students will work in assigned roles to investigate the relationship between rise, run and slope of a ramp. Then, students will change ramp rise to determine the effect on the velocity of “Pom-Pom Granny” and her wheelchair. Velocity and speed are often used interchangeably but they mean different things and those concepts will be clarified in this activity.

Part 3: What happens when “Pom-Pom Granny” goes down the ramp in her wheelchair? In this investigation, students will examine the relationships among force, mass and acceleration. In addition, they will be able to relate these topics to the mobility restrictions faced by many of the aging population.

Part 4: “Build a better ramp” is the design challenge your students will tackle in this activity. Using knowledge gained from parts 1, 2, and 3, students will analyze various ramps to determine if they meet ADA guidelines and if not, they will redesign them to make them safer.


Part 1:

  • Make observations of physics concepts based on hands-on experience.
  • Calculate ramp length given the rise and run.
  • Identify rise, run, and ramp length.
  • Describe the relationships among rise, run, slope.
  • Describe the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for ramps.


Part 2:

  • Determine height, slope, and velocity.
  • Collect and organize data; report their findings using tables, graphs, and calculations; draw conclusions.
  • Determine the effect of ramp height on velocity.


Part 3:

  • Examine the relationships among force, mass, and acceleration.
  • Collect and organize data; report their findings using tables, graphs, and calculations; draw conclusions.
  • Measure distance and time, and calculate force.


Part 4:

  • Design a ramp according to ADA guidelines.
  • Identify ramps that are compliant with ADA guidelines.

Additional Resources: Granny on the Ramp Middle School Version


Length, height, rise, base, run, slope, Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, velocity, force, mass, acceleration, distance, time


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Activity Code: 
Unit Reference: 
Mo-bility: Movement by the Numbers
Lesson Reference: 
Lesson 4: Taking Positive Steps: Accessibility Design