Understanding the Motion of a Harmonic Oscillator
This activity has benefited from input through a review and suggestion process.
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop. Workshop participants were provided with a set of criteria against which they evaluated each others' activities. For information about the criteria used for this review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/compadre/devactivities/reviewcriteria.html.
This page first made public: Apr 27, 2010
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
In this interactive lecture demonstration students are guided to a full conceptual understanding of harmonic motion through the use of a variety of resources. This lecture and collection of demonstrations and simulations are intended for introducing the concepts of wave frequency, amplitude and period. More advanced students can also investigate the relationship between uniform circular motion and harmonic motion.
Amplitude of the wave and the oscillator
Period of the wave and the oscillator
Frequency of the wave and the oscillator
Velocity of the wave with the wavelength and frequency
More advanced students can extend this lesson to relate harmonic motion with circular motion.
Context for Use
2 students, a cart, a board, and a mass on a spring
A computer, motion detector and software and projection system
Description and Teaching Materials
For the second part of the lecture a motion detector is placed underneath the mass on a spring and the motion is recorded and analyzed
For more advanced students, continue with an applet http://www.phys.hawaii.edu/~teb/java/ntnujava/shm/shm.html which shows the relationship between circular motion and harmonic motion, discussing angular frequency. Student worksheet for Understanding SHM (Microsoft Word 162bytes Jul3 08) Teacher/key for Understanding SHM (Acrobat (PDF) 162bytes Jul3 08)