Making Waves

by Myra Saturen
January 02, 2013

Using commonly available materials, Northampton Community College's Engineering Club have constructed a wave pendulum.  A wave pendulum is a frame consisting of 13 individual pendula, each one calibrated to swing at one oscillation (forward and backward motion) a minute. 

What is a wave pendulum's purpose?  The device simulates how monotonically (by sequences, the successive members of which either consistently increase or decrease), pendula of increasing lengths, that start at the same time of release, can produce sine, cosine and traveling waves, and chaotic motion.  The pendulum also serves as a visual demonstration of beat frequencies. 

With commonplace materials--scrap wood, kite string, golf balls, machine screws, and eye hooks- it takes math, above all, to make a wave pendulum that works.  Students used a lengthy algebraic equation to adjust the pendula's lengths. 

So far, the club members have given the pendulum a first test run, which turned out successfully.  They plan to make some minor adjustments to get the timing precise before they display their pendulum.  Visually, a wave pendulum's movements are mesmerizing, and viewers will enjoy seeing this one. 

Watch the first test of the club's wave pendulum on YouTube.



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