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An International Study of Foucault’s Pendulum

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Physics and Physics Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics and Physics

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Paper Authors


Ezequiel Gerardo Celario Sedano York College of Pennsylvania

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Ezequiel G Celario Sedano is an Electrical Engineering Senior at York College of Pennsylvania

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Inci Ruzybayev York College of Pennsylvania

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Inci Ruzybayev is Assistant Professor in Engineering Physics at the York College of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph. D. in Physics from University of Delaware and her M. S. and B. S. in Physics Education from M.E.T.U. in Turkey. Her technical research interests are in structural and characterization of TiO2 thin films and magnetic nanoparticles along with pedagogical research interests in improving engineering physics curriculum and seeking solutions to gender bias.

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Léon Foucault proved the rotation of the Earth with Foucault's Pendulum experiment using a pendulum with 67 meters in length. A Foucault’s Pendulum refers to a heavy mass swinging about a relatively high pivot point, where the inertial plane of the pendulum’s swing rotates over time. This rotation of the plane is called precession. Due to the Earth’s rotation, the precession is clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere. There is no precession at the equator and the pendulum keeps swinging in the same direction. Our small-scale Foucault’s Pendulum experiments were carried out in two different countries as an independent study by a sophomore engineering student. Project Based Learning (PBL) was applied in this study. Since Foucault’s experiment is in such a big scale, logistically it is hard to demonstrate it at schools. The aim of this study was to create a small-scale pendulum so other students and teachers around the world can easily build one to prove the Earth’s rotation. Using a small-scale setup, about 3 meters in length, we studied the effects of the Earth’s rotation on the pendulum’s precession with identical materials (i.e., object’s mass and size, length of the string, starting amplitude, etc.). This experiment was conducted at the Kinsley Engineering Center of York College of Pennsylvania, York, Pennsylvania, United States and in a local residence located in San Nicolas de los Arroyos, Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the two cities have similar but opposite latitudes which should yield precessions of similar magnitudes but opposite directions. Several factors were investigated for the small-scale Foucault’s Pendulum such as the influence of air resistance, the effect of releasing the object for minimum perturbation, and the elliptical path of the object. The data gathered in the two countries were compared. In this study, we are not only presenting the educational objectives of the independent study but also the design process of the small-scale pendulum which can be reproduced anywhere else in the world with a low budget.

Celario Sedano, E. G., & Ruzybayev, I. (2021, July), An International Study of Foucault’s Pendulum Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36676

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