The Slinky Lab Interactive is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Interactive can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.


Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Interactive could be suitably used at just about any stage of a learning cycle on vibrations and waves. The Interactive excels at reinforcing the concept that individual particles of the medium simply vibrate about a fixed position whenever a wave moves through the medium. Learners can view the motion of a disturbance or wave through the medium while simultaneously concentrating on the back-and-forth vibrational motion of an individual particle. 
The manner in which changes in frequency, tension, and density affect these back-and-forth vibrations as well as the movement of the disturbance can also be visualized. Learners can modify properties of the medium and see how such changes affect the speed at which disturbances move along the length of the medium. Of course a disturbance introduced into a slinky does not continue to move forever. The Slinky lab realistically demonstrates this using the damping control. Learners will quickly recognize that the reason disturbances do not remain within a medium forever is because of damping - the energy-dissipating interaction between a mechanical wave and its surroundings.

Finally, learners can observe the difference between fixed- and free-end reflection. The reflection of a wave at a boundary is one of many behaviors that a student of physics should understand in order to generate a complete mental model of wave motion.

The Physics Classroom has prepared an activty that provides classrooms a more directed experience. The activity emphasizes:
  • the nature of the particle motion for a transverse wave
  • the relationships between frequency and period, between density and speed, and between tension and speed
  • the effect that damping has upon wave motion
  • a comparison of the orientation of a reflected pulse at a free-end and a fixed-end
View Activity.

Our Slinky Wave Simulator is now available with a Concept Checker. Do the simulation. Then follow it up with the Concept Checker.

Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Slinky Lab Interactive. These include:
  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Assignments WM1, WM2, and WM3 of the Wave Motion module provide great complements to this Interactive. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...

    Describing Waves
    Wave Speed

    Visit the Curriculum Corner.

  • Labwork: 
    Simulations should always support (never supplant) hands-on learning. The Laboratory section of The Physics Classroom website includes several hands-on ideas that complement this Interactive. Three notable lab ideas include ...

    A Wiggle in Time
    A Wiggle in Time and Space
    Wave Motion

    Visit The Laboratory.
  • Science Reasoning Activities:
    Science classrooms should be filled with reasoning activities. There is one related activity in the Waves section of the Science Reasoning Center that will challenge students to employ close reading, data analysis, and logical reasoning. The activity is named ...

    Standing Waves on a Rope

    Visit the Science Reasoning Center.

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Slinky Lab into an instructional unit on vibrations and waves can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.


The Physics Classroom would like to extend a special thanks to Nerd Island Studios for the creation of this HTML5 Interactive and for contributing it to our collection of Physics Interactives. Visit to see more great stuff by Nerd Island Studios.

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