Hands-on Activity: Energy and the Pogo Stick

Contributed by: VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University

A photograph shows four teens in a parking lot, one on a pogo stick, two helping the boy on the pogo stick and one on his knees, looking at the lower part of the pogo stick.
Two people guide the pogo stick and one takes measurements.
Copyright © 2005 Joel Daniel, Vanderbilt University


Students learn about the conservation of energy with the inclusion of elastic potential energy. They use pogo sticks to experience the elastic potential energy and its conversion to gravitational potential energy.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Not only do engineers need to know about elastics energy, but also how to measure it. This lab, like the previous rollercoaster activity, has students measuring data and then calculating energy from that raw data. Engineers use these concepts in designing and testing pogo sticks as well as many other objects designed to move.

Pre-Req Knowledge

Students must have a basic working knowledge of dry lab operations and measurements. They should also have an understanding of elastic and potential energies as well as be able to calculate spring constants.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Apply their background knowledge to begin solving the challenge.
  • Relate elastic potential energy with gravitational potential energy.
  • Hypothesize about experimental "error."

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Create a computational model to calculate the change in the energy of one component in a system when the change in energy of the other component(s) and energy flows in and out of the system are known. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable, including equations with coefficients represented by letters. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; however, it can be converted from one form to another. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Use computers and calculators to access, retrieve, organize, process, maintain, interpret, and evaluate data and information in order to communicate. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

  • pogo stick
  • book
  • ruler
  • Energy Pogo Stick Worksheet, one per student


In today's activity, we will apply what we have learned about the conservation of energy between elastic and gravitational potential energies to a hands-on activity. As you learn about elastic potential energy, be thinking about how you could use the transformation of energy to design your hybrid car. Be especially thinking about how you might use elastic potential energy in your car design.



This activity introduces students to the concept of conservation of energy, solely between elastic and gravitational potential energy.

Before the Activity

Gather materials and make copies of the Energy Pogo Stick Worksheet, one per student.

With the Students

Explain the Lab Procedure:

  1. Divide the class into lab groups of 4-5 students each. Have each take and record his/her own mass.
  2. Record the distance from the ground to the collar of the pogo stick.
  3. Calculate the spring constant by using the mass of the person on the pogo stick and the deflection of the pogo stick.
  4. Have two people on each side of the person on the pogo stick bouncing him/her up and down. Have one or two people on the ground directly in front of the other group, measuring the amount of deflection of the collar of the pogo with a ruler that is taped to the spine of a book.
  5. On the last bounce, the spotters on each side of the person on the pogo should release, but still guide the person vertically. The measurer(s) should measure both the distance of deflection and the height that the collar actually achieves.
  6. Use these distances to calculate the amount of elastic potential energy and the amount of gravitational potential energy.

The teacher then needs to explain how to make height measurements of the pogo stick, as the bouncers are allowing the pogo stick to bounce freely. The teacher should also point out any potential hazards that may result in decreased safety and/or increased error. These include issues as not letting the person on the pogo actually jump, but to have the spotters actually bounce him/her up and down, making sure that the pogo is bounced straight up and down, and only taking the measurements on the last bounce as the pogo is allowed to bounce freely.


Investigating Questions

  • What was the percentage of gravitational potential energy to elastic potential energy?
  • Theoretically, this percentage should have been 1. Should 1 be a minimum or a maximum value for this ratio, and why?
  • What other potential sources of error are associated with this lab?


Assess students by their contributions during the lab, as well as the completeness and accuracy of their lab reports.

Activity Scaling

  • For lower grades, provide more time for group discussions and have only the teacher be on the pogo stick.
  • For upper grades, have students hypothesize possible types of energy that might be associated with a percentage of less than 1 in (refer to the first Investigating Question).


Joel Daniel (funded by the NSF-funded Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power at the University of Minnesota); Megan Johnston


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2006 Vanderbilt University

Supporting Program

VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under National Science Foundation RET grant nos. 0338092 and 0742871. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: September 5, 2017