Students explore the response of springs to forces as a way to begin to understand elastic solid behavior. They gain experience in data collection, spring constant calculation, and comparison and interpretation of graphs and material properties to elucidate material behavior. Conduct this activity before proceeding to the associated lesson.
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- Colorado: Math
- d. When the relationship between two numerical variables is reasonably linear, apply the least-squares criterion for line fitting, use Pearson's correlation coefficient as a measure of strength, and interpret the slope and y-intercept in the context of the problem (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
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- Calculate the spring constant, k, of multiple springs.
- Graph collected data using Microsoft Excel.
- Use Microsoft Excel to fit data with a trend line and equation to interpret the meaning of the coefficients in the equation.
- set of two (or more) springs of differing stiffness (for example, five color-coded springs 30 cm in length in a storage box, at http://www.pasco.com/prodCatalog/ME/ME-8970_equal-length-spring-set/, for $39)
- ruler (such as 12-inch wooden or plastic ruler with English or metric scales marked, for ~$1)
- spring scale with 10 N capacity (for example, a tubular spring scale measuring grams and Newtons, at http://www.amazon.com/Tubular-Spring-Scales-Grams-Newtons/dp/B004MI9UOS/ref=pd_sbs_indust_3, for $5)
- ring stand (for example, a stamped steel support ring stand with a 4 x 6-in base and 5/16 x 18-in rod, at http://www.artistsupplysource.com/product.php?productid=64115, for $7)
- 3-inch ring stand attachment from which to hang springs (for example, http://www.hometrainingtools.com/ring-support-3-diameter/p/CE-RING3/, for ~$5)
- lab notebooks or paper, and pencils
- Hooke's Law Data Analysis Worksheet, one per student
- access to a computer with Microsoft Excel or a similar spreadsheet/graphing application
- computer and projector to show four-slide Hooke's Law Presentation PowerPoint file
|elastic:||When a material returns back to its original shape after having a force applied and then removed.|
Before the Activity
- Gather materials and make copies of the Hooke's Law Data Analysis Worksheet.
- Clamp the ring stand attachment piece near the top of the ring stand for each group.
- Divide the class into groups of three students each.
With the Students
- Have each group collect a spring set, spring scale, ring stand with attachment, and ruler.
- Have students examine the springs and record their observations and predictions, as described in the Assessment section.
- Connect one spring to the ring stand attachment.
- Hang the spring scale on the end of the spring.
- Measure the length of the spring with the spring scale hanging from it. Record this as your initial length.
- Pull on the spring scale until it reads 1 Newton [N].
- Measure the length of the spring while the force is being applied. Note: Subtracting the initial length found in step 5 from the length measured in this step gives you the spring displacement, which is needed to calculate the spring constant on the worksheet.
- Record the force and resulting length.
- Repeat steps 6-8 for a total of 10 different forces (for example, 1 N, 2 N, 3 N, and so on).
- Repeat steps 3-9 for each spring.
- After students have collected all their data, have them revisit their earlier predictions, as described in the Assessment section.
- Have students complete their worksheets and turn them in for grading. Then proceed to conduct the associated lesson, Mechanics of Elastic Solids.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Brandi N. Briggs, Marissa H. Forbes
© 2011 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: March 26, 2015