Oscillations Experiments and Tutorials for Classical Mechanics Documents

Main Document

Oscillations Experiments and Tutorials for Classical Mechanics 

written by Deva O'Neil
sub author: Dr. Susan Lehman

This document provides supplementary materials (experimental activities and tutorials) for a unit on oscillations and simple harmonic motion in intermediate-level Classical Mechanics.

It offers two (independent) experiments developed for an intermediate Classical Mechanics course.

1. Undamped pendulum (employs a small weight attached to a long string)-  developed to address student difficulties with simple harmonic motion that present at the intermediate level. In assessing student learning at Bridgewater College and College of Wooster, we found that upper-level students struggled to use energy conservation reasoning appropriately, and made errors in interpreting the role of an initial push on the subsequent motion of a pendulum. The experiment targets these learning obstacles. The experiment is simple to set up and does not require a lab room - just a surface suitable for mounting a simple pendulum.

2. Damped pendulum - requires setting up a pendulum that leaks a sand trail. Requires a lab room or other area with flat tables.

The materials required are small weights, a horizontal bar mounted above a desk, sand or coarse cornmeal, rulers, stopwatches, protractors, and common household materials (tape, paper, string).

In addition to the experiments, this document outlines class discussion and small-group discussion questions to prepare students for the experiments. A tutorial is provided, intended to be completed in small groups, that guides students through the derivation of the equation of motion of a damped oscillator. The tutorial is intended to replace a lecture on damped oscillations.

Last Modified August 17, 2017