A simple but rich mechanical system for teaching about the physics of jumping
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Leonard, William J.

(This is a companion website to the article Springbok: The physics of jumping, published in The Physics Teacher.)

Springbok is our name for a simple mechanical system for teaching about the physics of jumping. A springbok consists of a large mass and a small mass connected by a spring; when compressed and then released, it jumps up into the air.

(The name "springbok" comes from a South African gazelle noted for its grace and its delightful habit of springing suddenly into the air.)

A springbok is easy to make and engaging to study. It provides a rich context for exploring a wide range of physics concepts and principles, and it possesses a number of features that give it broad instructional value. There is much a student can learn about the physics of jumping from a purely conceptual analysis of this toy.

However, the simplicity of the spring-loaded design also allows for a straightforward quantitative analysis of jumping. A springbok is ideal for hands-on projects and science competitions. With an appropriate focus, a springbok can be used in a variety of instructional settings, from high school physical science to graduate mechanics.

An article providing both a conceptual and quantitative analysis of the springbok (the mechanical system, not the gazelle) can be found in the published paper Springbok: The physics of jumping.