Simple Harmonic Motion

Figure from experiment 15 from Physics with Vernier


Lots of things vibrate or oscillate. A vibrating tuning fork, a moving child’s playground swing, and the loudspeaker in a radio are all examples of physical vibrations. There are also electrical and acoustical vibrations, such as radio signals and the sound you get when blowing across the top of an open bottle.

One simple system that vibrates is a mass hanging from a spring. The force applied by an ideal spring is proportional to how much it is stretched or compressed. Given this force behavior, the up and down motion of the mass is called simple harmonic and the position can be modeled with

y = A\sin (2\pi ft + \phi )

In this equation, y is the vertical displacement from the equilibrium position, A is the amplitude of the motion, f is the frequency of the oscillation, t is the time, and φ is a phase constant. This experiment will clarify each of these terms.


  • Measure the position and velocity as a function of time for an oscillating mass and spring system.
  • Determine the amplitude, period, and phase constant of the observed simple harmonic motion.
  • Compare the observed motion of a mass and spring system to a mathematical model of simple harmonic motion.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment requires each of the following Vernier sensors and equipment (unless otherwise noted):

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Download Experiment Preview

The student-version preview includes:

  • Step-by-step instructions for computer-based data collection
  • List of materials and equipment

Note: The experiment preview of the computer edition does not include essential teacher information, safety tips, or sample data. Instructions for Logger Pro and other software (such as LabQuest App or TI handheld software, where available) are on the CD that accompanies the book. We strongly recommend that you purchase the book before performing experiments.

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Experiment 15 from Physics with Vernier Lab Book

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