Dropper Poppers are educational toys sold by Arbor Scientific (and a few other vendors). A few years ago, I had a few dollars left in my annual budget, and I bought a few. Initially, I used the Dropper Poppers as a means of demonstrating multiple forms of potential energy, but I soon realized the potential for a short and simple laboratory exercise.
The result is my free product at Teachers Pay Teachers called Mini Lab: Dropper Poppers. In the exercise, students fold the Dropper Popper, thereby giving it some elastic, or spring, potential energy. The Dropper Popper is held at a height above the floor and dropped, thereby enabling it to “pop” when it hits the floor. Subsequently, the Dropper Popper rises to a greater height.
I turned this simple demonstration into a short laboratory exercise that allows students to measure the Dropper Popper’s spring constant. I’ve incorporated this exercise into my algebra based Physics AB curriculum. The exercise fills a space in my Physics AB curriculum while my Calculus based Honors Physics AB classes are exploring the more advanced concept of gravitational potential energy in its Newtonian form. In short, this exercise is an excellent means of differentiating instruction between the two classes.
Also, I have a new email newsletter in the works! By signing up, you’ll receive a free copy of Mini Lab: Dropper Poppers!