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University of the Philippines Cebu

High School Program


Gorordo Avenue, Lahug, Cebu City

Dinglasa, Anna Marie Eunice C.


2013-4179
LABORATORY ACTIVITY 3
MECHANICAL EQUILIBRIUM
INTRODUCTION
Many interactions occur in the human world. People interact, elements
interact, and different objects interact. As these interactions happen, there
are different factors causing it to happen, different forces appear and
become a reason for a certain movement. A force is either a push or a pull on
an object in different directions (Britannica Kids, n.d.). A force occurs when
two objects interact. As one object does something to another object, force
will act on it immediately; that is how force occurs.
The objects that interact are most likely objects in motion. Motion is
the action of changing the position or location of an object (n.a., 2016).
Motion, usually comes along with force and energy, as the force and the
energy are the reason behind a certain motion. There are two types of forces.
One of which is the translational motion and the rotational motion.
Translational motion is defined as a motion by which a body shifts from one
point in space. It involves the sliding of an object in one, two, or three
dimension (x, y, or z). But even if an object stays in a certain dimension,
there might also be a motion created, which is the spinning of the object

(Wood, 2016). The other type of motion is the Rotational Motion. From the
term itself, it says rotational, one can directly say that this motion is about
dealing with a motion in rotation. Rotational Motion deals with only rigid
bodies, meaning, these are objects that retain its shape all throughout. The
rotational motion is the motion that can be connected to the spinning of a
rigid object in an internal axis in a continuous way. This means that this is
the motion in an object spinning in its place (Habash, 2015).

Figures 1, 2, and 3. Translational Motion, Rotational Motion, and Combination


of the two
Different objects in the physical world interact. As the objects interact
with each other, they form a certain system wherein a connection between
the two objects is established since the forces act on each object in order to
keep these objects in interaction move. Mechanical equilibrium is the state of
a system wherein the objects are not in motion and its internal energy does
not change in a certain time (Britannica, n.d.). It may be classified into two,
an object at rest, and an object in motion but is in constant velocity.

Figure 4. Illustration of a Mechanical Equilibrium


In the illustration, the object is at rest. The force that is exerted upward
is equal to the force that is exerted downward. That shows that two forces
with opposing directions undergo a certain state wherein the system is in
equilibrium. This means that Fw = FN, where Fw is the weight of an object
(downward force), and FN is the net force of an object (upward force).

In motion, the center of mass or center of gravity of an object is highly


important (especially in rotational motion). The Center of Gravity is the point
on your object where its weight is concentrated. It is an imaginary point in a
body of matter where the total weight of the body is concentrated
(Britannica, 2016).

Figures 5, 6, and 7. Illustrations showing the Center of Gravity of Different


forms of matter
The center of gravity is important in calculating the different forces in
equilibrium. The state of equilibrium may be stable or not. The position of the
center of gravity of an object affects its stability. The lower center of gravity,
the more stable an object is. A stable equilibrium shows that a little
movement may affect an object; however, the object will not topple down, or
it may return to its original position. An unstable equilibrium shows that a
little or extreme motion may cause the object to topple down. And a neutral
equilibrium shows that an object does not topple down nor return to its
original position even with the presence of any form of movement. The
object is in stable state. If an object is tilted it will topple over if a vertical line
from its center of gravity falls outside its base (Gibbs, 2016).

Figure 8 and 9. State of Equilibrium

With the different states of equilibrium, the forces are also in


equilibrium. Equilibrium is classified into two: 1 st Condition (Statics) and 2 nd
Condition (Rotation).
The first condition of equilibrium shows that an object at rest is in
equilibrium which is described in Newtons First Law of Motion. The vector
sum of all the forces acting on a body vanishes (Davis, 2002).
F = F1+ F2+ F3+ F4+. . . = 0
F = 0
Therefore, Fx = 0 and Fy = 0.
The second condition of equilibrium states that an object in equilibrium
does not rotate, that means that the sum of all the rotational forces acting on
an object is equal to zero (0). The sum of all the torques on an object in
equilibrium is equal to zero (0) (Davis, 2002). Torque is the measure of all the
forces acting on an object which causes it to rotate. Torque is known with the
symbol , it is the lower case of the Greek letter Tau. Torque is an influence
to the object that may cause the rotational force to change. In order to
measure torque, use this formula,
Torque = Force applied x lever arm.
As to what the second condition of equilibrium states, the torques
acting on an object counterclockwise may be taken as positive while the
torques acting on an object clockwise may be taken as negative. This means
that the

All of these concepts are important in doing the laboratory activity.


These concepts will help the students unearth the explanations and reasons
behind each phenomenon.
In this activity, the center of mass and the second condition of
equilibrium is focused. The aim of this activity is to let the students learn on
how to find the center of gravity by using the plumb bob method. The
students will be able to locate the center of gravity of different shapes in
irregular form. Another aim of this laboratory activity is to create a mobile

that is highly related with torque. The mobile must use the concept of torque
in order to achieve it. In the end, the students will learn additional
information about Torques and Center of Gravity.
METHODOLOGY
The entire laboratory activity is divided into two different parts. The
first part focuses on the Center of Gravity while the second one focuses on
Torque.
Part 1 Finding the Center of Gravity of an Irregular Shaped Object
The first part of this activity is to find the center of gravity of an
irregular shaped object. The materials needed for this activity are the
following: Folders (irregular shape), thread, pen, ruler, and thumb tacks. The
irregularly cut folders were provided by the instructor. In order to locate the
center of gravity of an object, the plumb bob method was used by the
students. The plumb bob or plumb line employs the law of gravity to
establish the plumb exactly vertical line on an object, from a certain point
to another point (Vila, 2016). Since the students are not provided with an
exact plumb bob, the students formulated their own plumb bob by using an
alternative material, which has a heavy mass, and suspended it with the use
of a thread. Ideally, the plumb bob must look like this (see photo on the next
page), but as an alternative, the students used a piece of metal as the
suspended material.

Figure 10. The Plumb Bob


A specific point at the edge of the folders served as the starting point.
Using a thumb tack, the folder was attached to the wall (thumb tack used the
point as a reference for the hole), and the thread was also inserted (a
centimeter or two from the wall). The folder was then swayed behind the
thread and as it reached its stop, the students draw the line from the point of
reference up to the point opposite of it. The entire steps was then made

three (3) times in order to get three lines. The point of intersection of the
three (3) different lines is the center of gravity of the irregular shaped folder.
Since there are two folders, the same steps were repeated to obtain the
center of gravity of the second object.

Figure 11, 12, and 13. Using the plumb bob method

Part 2 Creating a Mobile with the Use of the concept of Torque


The second activity was to create a mobile. A mobile is an object
wherein the forces acting on it are equal. Meaning, it looks like a balanced
system of different objects. The materials needed are the following: Thread,
Sticks, Objects (in our case rocks and higlighters), and a weighing scale.
The mobile must have a structure like the diagram (Figure 14). The sticks
that were used are weighed using the weighing scale. The objects to be
hanged are also weighed on the weighing scale. The arrangement of the
objects depend on their masses, the greater the mass of the objects, the
objects are placed at the left side while the others are placed at the right
side of the mobile. After creating a mobile, the students calculated the
different forces acting on it in order to prove that the mobile is in equilibrium.

Figure 14 and 15. The diagram and the partial look of the mobile
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Since the activity is divided into two different parts, there are also two
different sets of results for the entire activity.
Part 1 Finding the Center of Gravity of an Irregular Shaped Object

Figure 16 and 17. The First and Second Folder


The first folder is a seven-sided irregular shaped object. The folder has
a weird shape and it is difficult to find the center of gravity, however, by
using the plumb bob method, it is easier to find the center of gravity of the
folder. The students identified three (3) different reference points, and in the
end, three (3) lines were formed. The point of intersection is the Center of
Gravity of the object. The Center of Gravity (encircled with red) is located
near the left side of the folder. It is where the concentration of the mass of
the object is situated.

The second folder have many sides compared to the first one. The
second folder is a ten-sided irregular shaped object. The folder still, has a
weird shape and a large size, and it is still difficult to find the center of
gravity, but same as the steps done to the first folder, the center of gravity
was identified using the plumb bob method. The students identified three (3)
different reference points, and three (3) lines were formed. The point of
intersection is the Center of Gravity of the object. The Center of Gravity
(encircled with red) is located almost at the center (estimated) of the folder.
It is located at the part wherein the space of the folder is wider, and it is
located nearer the left side of the folder.
Both of the folders have their center of gravity located near the left
side of the folders. The location of the center of gravity of an object depends
on the shape of the object. The plumb bob method is still effective without
considering its shape. Most irregular shaped objects have their own unique
center of gravity, some may be quite similar with each other, but still, it
depends on where the weight of an object is highly concentrated.
Part 2 Creating a Mobile with the Use of the concept of Torque
Different objects were used in the mobile. Sticks, threads, rocks, and
even highlighters were used by the students in order to create a mobile.

Figure 18, 19, and 20. The mobile


Before forming the mobile, the students measured the mass of the
objects that will be used in the mobile, and also, the distance of each thread
from the pivot was also measured. Here is the diagram showing the
measurements of the objects in the mobile.

Figure 21. The measurements of the Objects


After measuring the mass and the distances, the students proceed on
calculating the force of the mobile. The mobile was divided into four (4)
sublevels, Level 1, 2A, 2B, and 3. The calculations was done step by step,
starting from the base of the mobile up to the top. Before calculating, the
students assigned each variable for every factor that may affect the
calculations for the force of the objects. This is the diagram showing the
assignments of the variables to the objects. Each variable represent the force
(weight) of the objects in respect to gravity (9.8 m/s 2). The variables in
capital letters are the forces exerted by the objects while the variables in
small letters are the forces exerted by the sticks alone.

Figure 21. The Variables Assigned on the Objects of the Mobile

And to show the value of each variable, here is the table containing the
values represented by each variable. The force is obtained by using the
formula: Force = mass gravity, where mass is equal to the measure mass
of a certain object (in kilograms) and gravity is equal to the acceleration of
gravity which is 9.8 m/s2.
Object
A

Calculation
1 kg
(19.76 g 1000 g )(9.8

Force (N)
0.193648

m/s2)
1 kg
(19.12 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.187376

m/s2)
1 kg
(44.08 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.431984

m/s2)
1 kg
(44.75 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.43855

m/s2)
1 kg
(46.93 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.459914

m/s2)
1 kg
(43.06 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.421988

m/s2)
1 kg
(95.69 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.937762

m/s2)
1 kg
(96.01 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.940898

m/s2)
Table 1. The Forces exerted by the Objects
Object
a

Calculation
1 kg
(5.87 g 1000 g )(9.8
m/s2)

Force (N)
0.057526

(7.18 g

1 kg
1000 g )(9.8

0.070364

m/s2)
1 kg
(5.70 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.05586

m/s2)
1 kg
(5.53 g 1000 g )(9.8

0.054194

m/s2)
Table 2. The Forces exerted by the Sticks
With the forces exerted by the sticks and the objects. The torques
acting on each level was calculated. First is calculate the forces acted on
Level 3.

Figure 22. Level 3


F Level 3 l= F Level 3 r
(a+ A)(l )=(a+ B)(l)

(0.077286 N )(8.6 cm)=(0.0762636 N )(8.9 cm)


0.7 N cm=0.7 N cm

6.6 103 N m=6.6 103 N m


This computation shows that the torque acting on the left side of the
stick is equal to the force acting on the right side of the stick. Both sides

have a torque equal to

6.6 10 N m . Since the torque on Level 3 is equal,

therefore the system is in equilibrium. Meaning that balance can be seen to


the objects.
For Level 2A, the procedures is still the same with the computation of
the torque in Level 3.

Figure 23. Level 2A


F Level 2 Al = F Level 2 Ar
(c + E)(l)=( c+ F)(l )

(0.515774 N )(7.0 cm)=(0.477848 N )(7.6 cm)


3.6 N cm=3.6 N cm

0.04 N m=0.04 N m
Same as the results in Level 3, the torques acting on Level 2A (left and
right) are equal. This means that the system is in equilibrium, and is in a
balance state. In order to achieve an equilibrium for the entire Level 2, the
other side (Level 2B) must be equal to the torque in Level 2A.
For the calculations in Level 2B, the mass of the different objects under
it are added.

Figure 24. Level 2B


F Level 2 Bl = F Level 2 Br
(b+C )(l)=(b+ D)(l)
(0.502348 N)(7.6 cm)=(0.508914 N )(7.5 cm)

3.82 N cm=3.82 N cm
0.038 N m=0.038 N m

As calculated, the results in Level 2B (left and right) are equal. This
means that the system is in equilibrium, and is in a balance state. The
torques acting on the entire level 2 has been calculated. The torque in Level
2A is equal to 0.04 N m, and the torque in Level 2B is equal to 0.038 N
m. There is only a small difference between the torque in 2A and 2B, but still,
the torque, if rounded off, is equal with each other. This shows that Level 2 is
in equilibrium. Level 3 and Level 2 are in equilibrium with each other. To find
if the entire mobile is in equilibrium, the torque for Level 1, both left and
right, must be equal.

Figure 25. Level 1


F Level 1 l= F Level 1 r
(d +G)(l)=(d + H )(l)

(0.991956 N )(7.8 cm)=(0.995092 N )(7.8 cm)


7.7 N cm=7.7 N cm

0.08 N m=0.08 N m
The torques acting on Level 1 (entire), both left and right, are equal.
This means that the entire mobile is in a state of balance, from its structure,
up to the torques calculated on it. The entire mobile is already in a balanced
state.
With the left and right side in every level, that means that there is
torque acting counterclockwise and clockwise, with that, by adding the
counterclockwise and clockwise torques on each level, the result will be
equal to zero. That means that as every level have equal resulting torques,
the total torque in each level is equal to zero. Therefore, the entire specific
level is in equilibrium. And with every level in equilibrium, having the entire
mobile in equilibrium is the conclusion in this activity.
In both of the parts of the entire activity, the torque is interrelated with
the center of gravity. At the second activity, the center of gravity of the
sticks with the objects hunged are dentified by doing a trial and error process
(in the case of some groups), which means that the center of gravity is
highly important in acquiring equilibrium in a system of objects. Of course,

the forces and the torques are also highly important in order to achieve
equilibrium between different objects. In this activity, the two (center of
gravity and torque) are proven to be important factors in accomplishing an
equilibrium between objects.

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