Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds

Some ideas for home experiments: oscillators

Students generally enjoy devising their own investigations, using materials readily found at home. From time to time, this can be a good alternative to standard homework, especially when it leads to writing short reports or oral presentations. Home experiments give valuable practise with practical problem-solving and with conceptual thinking.

1 Making a chronometer
Throughout the history of science and technology one of the most difficult problems has been the development of an accurate, robust chronometer. The task is to make a device which can measure, accurate to 1 second, any time interval between 0 and 3 minutes. Students compare their design with others in the class and see who can produce the most accurate device.

2 A mechanical oscillator
Using either a home-made spring or combinations of springs found in the school laboratory, make a mechanical oscillator that vibrates, say, at 5 Hz. This problem is best approached not on a ‘trial and error' basis, but rather from detailed knowledge of the spring constant of the device. Students should also try to think of accurate ways of measuring the frequency of their oscillators. This might involve using a strobe, or perhaps some voltage-inducing device coupled with an oscilloscope.