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Hooke's Law and the Stiffness of a Plastic Spoon
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1.Kenneth A. Pestka IIYoung's modulus of a marshmallow,” Phys. Teach. 46,140141 (March 2008).
2.D. Halliday, R. Resnick and J. Walker, Fundamentals of Physics, 9th ed. extended (Wiley, New York, 2011).
3.A. Giambattista, B. Richardson, and R. Richardson, Physics, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, New York, 2010).
4.The finite element model shown in Fig. 3 was created using FEMAP with NX Nastran by Cori Warren and modified by Jill M. Pestka, used with permission.
5.In order to fully describe the complex bending behavior of the spoon, Hooke's law must be extended to three dimensions. In this case both Young's modulus and the shear modulus are required in such a model due to the presence of shear, tensile, and compressive motion in the system. Also, the structural characteristic of the spoon (the shape of the shaft and cup) strongly influence its behavior. Thus, while the given experiment produces excellent results for the one-dimensional stiffness constant, the finite element model incorporates all of these properties in order to reproduce the overall behavior of the spoon.
View: Figures


Image of Fig. 1.

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Fig. 1.

Experimental configuration for measuring the stiffness constants of a plastic spoon.

Image of Fig. 2.

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Fig. 2.

A graph of the linear elastic relationship for a plastic spoon while exposed to a transverse force. The stiffness constant (∼102 N/m) is determined from the slope of the line.

Image of Fig. 3.

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Fig. 3.

Finite element model of a plastic spoon showing the relative spoon deformation when constrained at the base and a static force is applied to the tip.4


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The study of elastic properties of solids is essential to both physics and engineering. Finding simple, easy-to-visualize examples to demonstrate these concepts is often difficult. In a previous article written by one of us (KAPII), a simple method for determining Youngs modulus using marshmallows was given.1 In this article we will illustrate another method to explore elastic properties of everyday materials. This experiment uses a common plastic spoon exposed to a transverse force in order to determine the stiffness constant, yield point, and rupture point of the plastic spoon. In addition, much like the “Youngs Modulus of a Marshmallow” activity, this experiment visually demonstrates Hooke's law, is fun and easy to perform, and leaves a lasting impression on the students.


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Scitation: Hooke's Law and the Stiffness of a Plastic Spoon