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1st experiment: pendulums

August 21, 2010

The first experiment for my intro physics class begins with observing a pendulum. Instead of making this a teacher led experiment, as modeling suggests, I decided to just let the kids go free. We watched the pendulum, talked for a few minutes about what we could measure, and then I set the students off to build pendulums of their own and start measuring. In hindsight, this might not have been the best idea. Most students were immediately drawn to measuring the height of the bob off the table, and how that starting height affects the period of the pendulum. This was a bit difficult to measure, and so progress was slow, but some students did come to a major insight

We found that the pendulum takes the same time to make a lap no matter how far back you pull it. This must be because it has more momentum when you pull it back further because it’s going faster.

So even though no one really got to finding out that the period of the pendulum depends on the length, this was worth the time spent, and we’ll have more time to explore Monday.

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