Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Springs Making Things Move

Figure from experiment 11 from Physics Explorations and Projects


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.

Learning Outcomes

  • 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.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

Option 5

Additional Requirements

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

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • PS2.A Forces and Motion
  • PS3.A Definitions of Energy
  • PS3.B Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Science models, laws, mechanisms, and theories explain natural phenomena

Experiment 11 from Physics Explorations and Projects Lab Book

<i>Physics Explorations and Projects</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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