Detecting vibrations: Teachers' notes

Students use a magnet and coil and sound-editing software to detect vibrations.

Learning objectives

Students will:

  • recognise that a seismometer is an inertial device which allows us to observe the relative motion of the ground underneath a suspended mass
  • observe how a magnet and coil can be used to 'translate' a vibration into a visual trace on a computer screen, and so make a vibration detector


Before tackling the activity, it may be helpful to include a brief overview of other ways of detecting earthquakes (e.g. balanced balls, pendulums with a pen on the free end) and their uses and limitations.

You may also find it useful to take screenshots and place them in a document for class discussion.

It is important to check that the software is already installed on the computer(s) you plan to use and to confirm any further set-up details before you use this activity in class.

You can find details of how to download and use Audacity (free, open source software) in the pdf Mindsets: Downloading and using the Audacity software.

Resources needed

Each group will need: