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Analysis of simple harmonic oscillator in a single video clip

Peter Bohacek, Henry Sibley High School
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project

Summary

A video clip of a glider on a low-friction air track can be used to analyze many aspects of simple harmonic motion. This clip includes graphs that are synchronized to the motion that show position vs time, velocity vs time, and acceleration vs time. Using this graph, students can study many qualitative and quantitative aspects of simple harmonic motion. Included below are the video clip, and instructions for use, included sample questions.

Learning Goals

One of the challenging aspects of understanding simple harmonic motion is that students need to be able to visualize the connection between the motion of an object moving in simple harmonic motion and the mathematical description of the motion. The goal of this activity is to use a video that has the graphs that describe the motion mathematically in one video clip. Students will be able to use this concrete example of a linear oscillator and make connections between the motion of this object and the motion graphs showing position, velocity, and acceleration. This will deepen students' conceptual understanding of simple harmonic motion.

Context for Use

This activity is intended for use in any introductory physics course that includes the mechanics of simple harmonic motion. It can be used for both quantitative and qualitative problem solving. Ideally, it is an activity that can be done near the beginning of the chapter when students' conceptual understanding of simple harmonic motion is not well developed.

Description and Teaching Materials

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The QuickTime version of this video clip of a glider on a low-friction air track can be used to analyze many aspects of simple harmonic motion.


The QuickTime version of the video includes a window showing the motion of the object
video of linear oscillator undergoing SHM with motion graphs (Quicktime Video 2.1MB Aug31 10)

Student instructions and sample questions.
student instructions for simple harmonic motion activity (Microsoft Word 330kB Sep6 10)


Teaching Notes and Tips

This compact activity allows students to extract information about simple harmonic motion from a video clip. It can be used as an introduction to linear oscillators, a review, or an assessment.

The student handout (student instructions for simple harmonic motion activity (Microsoft Word 330kB Sep6 10)) includes a list of possible questions students could work on using this video.

See a complete description of how to teach with video clips, including pedagogic strategies and a collection of sample videos.

Assessment

This activity is intended to help students see the mathematical relationships that describe simple harmonic motion. One simple option for assessment of whether this has succeeded is to use a traditional assessment such as the one provided with any introductory physics text.