Attention: Safety Recall of Vernier Go Direct Charge Station. Click to learn more.



Springs Making Things Move

Experiment #11 from Physics Explorations and Projects

Education Level
High School


The goal of this activity is for students to grapple with the idea of energy without it being named. Students investigate energy stored in a spring that does work on a cart. They determine a mathematical model used to predict how to achieve a particular cart speed based on the distance the spring is stretched.

During the subsequent investigation, students collect data and construct a model that allows them to predict how different springs can achieve the same effect (cause the cart to move at a specified speed). Students can collect data using a variety of tools, including motion detectors, photogates, the Go Direct Sensor Cart, or Motion Encoders.

This investigation should result in graphs of spring constants. Students will use their graphs as a tool to investigate how one might determine the correct length of stretch that will match a particular speed.

Students should finish the activity with the knowledge that the area under the force vs. displacement curve provides a method for predicting the resulting velocity of the cart for any given spring.


  • Design and perform an investigation.
  • Draw a conclusion from evidence.
  • Understand that the area under the curve of force vs. displacement represents a physically meaningful quantity that involves speed of an object.

Ready to Experiment?

Ask an Expert

Get answers to your questions about how to teach this experiment with our support team.

Purchase the Lab Book

This experiment is #11 of Physics Explorations and Projects. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

Learn More