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In the Simple Pendulums Inquiry Lab Kit for AP® Physics 1, investigate the properties of pendulums and design an experiment to test and identify variables to determine what affects the period of a pendulum’s swing.

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AP Physics 1, Big Idea 3, Investigation 10

The motion of a pendulum is simple harmonic—a classic real-world example is the timekeeping swing of a grandfather clock. Pendulums are excellent simple devices that can be used to study kinetic and potential energy. In this advanced-inquiry activity, students investigate the properties of swinging pendulums and design an experiment to test and identify multiple variables to determine what affects the period of a pendulum’s swing.

Students begin with an introductory activity to learn the proper experimental technique. Then the guided-inquiry activity leads students to determine variables that may affect the period of a pendulum’s swing. Possible variables students should consider include the measurements and physical properties of the given materials and experimental setups. Interpreting the data and incorporating graphical analysis confirms relationships between the tested variables.

Complete for 24 students working in pairs. All materials are reusable.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Using mathematics and computational thinking
Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Disciplinary Core Ideas

HS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
HS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
HS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect
Patterns
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Systems and system models
Energy and matter

Performance Expectations

HS-ETS1-2. Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.