This article describes a simple nonlinear mechanical oscillator suitable for an undergraduate physics laboratory. The oscillating system is a Plexiglas blade, with nonlinearity introduced by means of contact with stretched rubber bands. Using a variable driving frequency, students can make amplitude and phase lag measurements with sufficient accuracy for quantitative work. It is possible to study classical resonance with the linear system and then, with the modified system, produce nonlinear effects such as hysteresis.

This content is only available via PDF.
AAPT members receive access to the American Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.