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published by the PhET
Available Languages: English, Spanish, Italian
This HTML5 activity simulates the motion of a vibrating string as well as ideas for activities involving this simulation. The end of the string can be moved using the mouse or driven by an oscillator to set up traveling or standing waves. The string is modeled as a series of interacting masses. The tension of the string, damping, and frequency and amplitude of the oscillator can be adjusted. Measurements can be made with rulers and a stop watch.

This item is part of a larger collection of simulations developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET).  See Related items on this page for a link to clicker questions and a unit of instruction developed specifically to accompany PhET simulations involving wave motion.

Please note that this resource requires at least version 8 of Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
- Lower Undergraduate
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Learners
- Educators
- text/html
- application/flash
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Access Rights:
Free access
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 license. Additional information is available.
Rights Holder:
PhET; University of Colorado
amplitude, frequency, harmonic, oscilate, oscillation, oscillator, standing wave, wave
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created May 3, 2006 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 1, 2008
Other Collections:

Next Generation Science Standards

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (MS-PS4)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave. (MS-PS4-1)
  • Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials. (MS-PS4-2)

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (HS-PS4)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media. (HS-PS4-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Wave Properties (PS4.A)
  • A simple wave has a repeating pattern with a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. (6-8)
  • The wavelength and frequency of a wave are related to one another by the speed of travel of the wave, which depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
  • Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships. (6-8)
  • Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data. (6-8)
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)
  • Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena. (6-8)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. (9-12)
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 a model to describe unobservable mechanisms. (6-8)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
  • 6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 9-12: 11B/H1a. A mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(PhET, Boulder, 2003), WWW Document, (
PhET Simulation: Wave on a String (PhET, Boulder, 2003), <>.
APA Format
PhET Simulation: Wave on a String. (2008, October 1). Retrieved July 19, 2024, from PhET:
Chicago Format
PhET. PhET Simulation: Wave on a String. Boulder: PhET, October 1, 2008. (accessed 19 July 2024).
MLA Format
PhET Simulation: Wave on a String. Boulder: PhET, 2003. 1 Oct. 2008. 19 July 2024 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PhET Simulation: Wave on a String}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {19 July 2024}, Month = {October 1, 2008}, Year = {2003} }
Refer Export Format

%T PhET Simulation: Wave on a String %D October 1, 2008 %I PhET %C Boulder %U %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D October 1, 2008 %T PhET Simulation: Wave on a String %I PhET %V 2024 %N 19 July 2024 %8 October 1, 2008 %9 text/html %U

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

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PhET Simulation: Wave on a String:

Is Supplemented By PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit

A comprehensive unit of study on waves developed specifically for use with PhET simulations on wave motion, wave interference, and Fourier.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is the Basis For PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Applications of Sinusoidal Functions

This activity is designed to utilize the Wave on a String simulation in a 60-minute high school laboratory.

relation by Lyle Barbato
Is the Basis For

A set of clicker questions, pre-lab and post-lab questions specifically developed for use with the PhET simulation "Wave On A String".  It was designed for beginners or non-science majors with little or no background in physics.

relation by Lyle Barbato

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