Waves along a line of students
Practical Activity for 14-16
Introduce transverse and longitudinal waves with a kinaesthetic experience. This can help students to understand and remember what each of these wave types are.
Apparatus and Materials
Health & Safety and Technical Notes
- Students stand side to side and link arms in a line. Send gentle transverse waves and pulses down the line.
- For longitudinal waves and pulses, students all turn right (or left) and place their hands on the shoulders of the student in front, with elbows kept bent.
- To carry out these experiments successfully, you will need class discipline almost at the military parade ground level. They do illustrate clearly, however, the motion of particles in a medium that constitutes a passing wave.
- With students in the second arrangement, you could ask the students to imagine what happens when a medium is strained beyond its elastic limit.
- From the rear of the line, imagine that the end student is given a good shove to send a strong pulse down the line. Think what would happen next. When the students have figuratively
picked themselves up, discuss the difference between this pulse and all the others so far: that the particles did not, in this case, return to their original places.
This experiment was safety-tested in February 2006
- A video showing another way to model transverse waves is using a wave machine (cheap and simple to construct):