When I walked into my physics class this past Tuesday upon my arrival from break, I was greeted with the message that we would be approaching our next unit on oscillation and the transfer of energy slightly differently. Rather than learn the material first before applying it later, we would be flipping the process and coming to conclusions through a series of experiments. Initially, my lab partner and I were tasked with developing an experiment that explored the relationship between applied force and the burdened spring’s displacement.
We first ran several tests before bringing our data into Microsoft Excel and familiarizing ourselves with the graphing method used in the program. After observing this initial connection for five different springs, we then progressed to variables that might impact the period of oscillation for the massed spring, before finally deriving a formula that related a given mass and spring constant to a resulting period of oscillation. Remarkably, my group was able to find an equation whose proportionality constant was within .15 of the true equation.
While this exercise certainly revealed the true equation that we were looking for, it also allowed us to come to grips with the material in a way that was both enjoyable and new. Through this experimental learning method, we were able to understand where the equation that we would be using originated from and how exactly these variables are related. The act of testing and graphing on Excel also helped us to practice and utilize our knowledge of scientific inquiry and designing our own experiments, and it was crazy for me to see how accurate we could be through just three days of testing. While my teacher, Mr. Hall, gave us some guidance, the vast majority of the experiment was developed, run, and analyzed independently. In the future, I would love for Mr. Hall to give us more opportunities to channel our inner Isaac Newton and do further learning experimentally.