The Physics Front is a free service provided by the AAPT in partnership with the NSF/NSDL.
Computer Program Detail Page
Pendulum Energy Model
Mario Belloni, and
This is a standards-based simulation for grade level 6-9, developed to help students visualize how total energy is conserved in a simple pendulum. It depicts a child swinging on a swing suspended from a stationary point. Students can drag the swing to different heights, then activate the motion. As the swing moves in periodic motion, energy bar graphs are simultaneously displayed that show changing levels of kinetic and potential energy. The simulation is accompanied by a lesson plan and printable student activity guide.
This item was created with Easy Java Simulations (EJS), a modeling tool that allows users without formal programming experience to generate computer models and simulations. To run the simulation, simply click the Java Archive file below. To modify or customize the model, See Related Materials for detailed instructions on installing and running the EJS Modeling and Authoring Tool.
Please note that this resource requires
at least version 1.5 of
Editor's Note:To keep the activity simple enough for middle school, air resistance is ignored in this simulation. Teachers should be prepared for students to ask why the swing isn't slowing down. See Annotations for content support on the topic of energy transformation for a pendulum.
Pendulum Energy Model: Student Version
EJS Pendulum Energy Model: Student Version is a simulation for physical science (middle and high) school students. It is distributed as a ready-to-run (compiled) Java archive. Double clicking the ejs_middle_school_PendulumEnergy.jar file will run the program if Java is installed. download 2714kb .jar
Published: June 17, 2009
Pendulum Energy Model: Lesson Plan
A pdf file with a teacher lesson plan for use with the Pendulum Energy Model. download 366kb .pdf
Published: June 17, 2009
Pendulum Energy Source Code
The source code zip archive contains an XML representation of the Pendulum Energy Model. Unzip this archive in your Ejs workspace to compile and run this model using Ejs. download 1462kb .zip
Published: June 17, 2009
6-8: 4E/M1. Whenever energy appears in one place, it must have disappeared from another. Whenever energy is lost from somewhere, it must have gone somewhere else. Sometimes when energy appears to be lost, it actually has been transferred to a system that is so large that the effect of the transferred energy is imperceptible.
6-8: 4E/M4. Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves.
9-12: 4E/H1. Although the various forms of energy appear very different, each can be measured in a way that makes it possible to keep track of how much of one form is converted into another. Whenever the amount of energy in one place diminishes, the amount in other places or forms increases by the same amount.
11. Common Themes
3-5: 11B/E3. A model of something is similar to, but not exactly like, the thing being modeled. Some models are physically similar to what they are representing, but others are not.
3-5: 11B/E4. Models are very useful for communicating ideas about objects, events, and processes. When using a model to communicate about something, it is important to keep in mind how it is different from the thing being modeled.
6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
6-8: 11B/M5. The usefulness of a model depends on how closely its behavior matches key aspects of what is being modeled. The only way to determine the usefulness of a model is to compare its behavior to the behavior of the real-world object, event, or process being modeled.
Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)
Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth's surface pulls that object toward the planet's center. (5)
Forces that act at a distance (electric, magnetic, and gravitational) can be explained by fields that extend through space and can be mapped by their effect on a test object (a charged object, or a ball, respectively). (6-8)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
Motion energy is properly called kinetic energy; it is proportional to the mass of the moving object and grows with the square of its speed. (6-8)
A system of objects may also contain stored (potential) energy, depending on their relative positions. (6-8)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
When the motion energy of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time. (6-8)
Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy and matter flows within systems. (6-8)
Energy and Matter (2-12)
The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system. (6-8)
Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). (6-8)
Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter. (6-8)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
Science assumes that objects and events in natural systems occur in consistent patterns that are understandable through measurement and observation. (6-8)
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments
Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)
MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
Ratios and Proportional Relationships (6-7)
Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world
and mathematical problems. (7)
7.RP.2.b Identify the constant of proportionality (unit rate) in tables, graphs, equations, diagrams, and verbal descriptions of proportional relationships.
Use functions to model relationships between quantities. (8)
8.F.5 Describe qualitatively the functional relationship between two quantities by analyzing a graph (e.g., where the function is increasing or decreasing, linear or nonlinear). Sketch a graph that exhibits the qualitative features of a function that has been described verbally.
This animated tutorial is part of The Physics Classroom collection, and provides excellent background information on the motion of a pendulum, with questions that allow users to self-test their understanding.
This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.
Topic: Conservation of Energy Unit Title: Teaching About Energy
This simulation-based lesson was developed by a middle school science teacher to help students visualize how energy is conserved in a simple pendulum (a child swinging on a swing). Students can drag the swing to different heights, then activate the motion. As the swing moves in periodic motion, energy bar graphs are shown in real-time.....letting students see the changing levels of kinetic and potential energy. Highly recommended by editors. Includes full lesson plan and printable student guide. Easily adaptable for high school.
Topic: Periodic and Simple Harmonic Motion Unit Title: Simple Harmonic Motion
This lesson integrates a computer model to help kids visualize how energy is conserved in a simple pendulum (a child swinging on a swing). Students can drag the swing to different heights, then activate the motion. As the swing moves in periodic motion, energy bar graphs are shown in real-time.....letting students see the changing levels of kinetic and potential energy. Highly recommended by editors. Includes full lesson plan and printable student guide. Easily adaptable for high school.
Christian, W., Belloni, M., & Cox, A. (2009). Pendulum Energy Model (Version 1.0) [Computer software]. Retrieved December 9, 2016, from http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9147&DocID=1220
%0 Computer Program %A Christian, Wolfgang %A Belloni, Mario %A Cox, Anne %D June 17, 2009 %T Pendulum Energy Model %7 1.0 %8 June 17, 2009 %U http://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=9147&DocID=1220
Disclaimer: ComPADRE offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure. Please refer to the style manuals in the Citation Source Information area for clarifications.
This lesson for middle school learners takes the concepts of pendulum motion to a somewhat higher level. Learners construct a pendulum and design a controlled experiment. They will be confronting the concept of air resistance.