Notes:

The Mass on a Spring Interactive is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Interactive can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.

Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Interactive is versatile enough to be used in any one of two units - a unit on energy or a unit of vibrations and waves . The Interactive depicts the motion of a mass vibrating on a spring. There are two springs with different spring constants and five different masses that can be added to the end of each spring. One of the masses is an unknown mass. Both springs can vibrate at the same time. The Interactive provides the ability to change the stiffness and the damping of each spring. As soon as a mass is placed on a spring and the spring is stretched or compressed, the mass begins to vibrate up and down. A digital display reports the height and velocity and a bar chart displays the relative amount of kinetic energy and gravitational and elastic potential energies. Once the Start button is pressed, a plot of height and velocity as a function of time is created. A vertical bar can be dragged backwards across the graph to rewind the simulation and view the values of height, velocity and time at any point during the simulation. Pressing the Reset button allows the learner to change masses or properties of the spring.

The Interactive can be used to explore a variety of questions that would be relevant to either a unit on vibrations and waves or a unit on work and energy. These questions include:
• How would you describe the changes in height as a function of time?
• How would you describe the changes in velocity as a function of time?
• At what height in the up and down cycle is the mass located at when it is traveling fastest?
• At what height in the up and down cycle is the mass located at when it is traveling slowest?
• What is the velocity of the mass when it is at its highest point? lowest point?
• Does the period of the mass change over the course ot time?
• Does the amplitude of the mass change over the course ot time?
• What is the mass of the unknown mass?
• What is the spring constant of the two springs?
• What seems to determine the amount of gravitational potential energy?
• What seems to determine the amount of elastic (spring) potential energy?
• Accumulate some evidence to show that the mechanical energy of the mass on the spring is conserved over the course of time.
• At what point in the up and down cycle of the mass is the kinetic energy the greatest?
• At what point in the up and down cycle of the mass is the gravitational potential energy the greatest?
• At what point(s) in the up and down cycle of the mass is the elastic potential energy the greatest?
• What affect does increasing the amount of damping have upon the vibrations of the mass?
• What affect does an increase in tension have upon the vibrations of the mass?

The Physics Classroom has prepared an activity for this Interactive that is well suited for a unit on vibrations and waves. The focus of the activity is to determine what factors affect the period and the frequency of the vibrating mass and to determine how such variables affect the period and the frequency. The activity is intended to be used by teachers with their classes. View

Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Mass on a Spring Interactive. These include:

Lessons 1 and 2 of the Work, Energy and Power Chapter of the Tutorial is also a perfect accompaniment to this Interactive. The following pages will be particularly useful in the early stages of the learning cycle on energy conservation:

Kinetic Energy

Potential Energy

Analysis of Situations in Which Mechanical Energy is Conserved

Bar Chart Illustrations

• Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding of vibrational motion and waves, There is currently very little information present there on the topic of vibrations. Yet, there are a lot of resources on the topic of wave motion.

Visit the Curriculum Corner.

• Labwork:
Simulations should always support (never supplant) hands-on learning. The Laboratory section of The Physics Classroom website includes several hands-on ideas that complement this Interactive. Three notable lab ideas include ...

A Wiggle in Time
A Wiggle in Time and Space
Wave Motion
Ut Tensio, Sic Vis
Energy of a Pendulum
Spring Energy

Visit The Laboratory.

• Science Reasoning Activities:
Science classrooms should be filled with reasoning activities. There are two related activities in the Waves section of the Science Reasoning Center that will challenge students to employ close reading, data analysis, and logical reasoning. The activities are named ...

Period of a Pendulum
Mass on a Spring

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating the Mass on a Spring Interactive into an instructional unit on vibrations and waves or work and energy can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.

Credits

The Physics Classroom would like to thank Nerd Island Studios for the creation of this HTML5 Interactive. Visit http://www.nerdislandstudios.com to see more great stuff by Nerd Island Studios.

Visit: Interactive | Activity