A pendulum wave is a series of weights, each suspended by a string a little longer than the last. The weights swing in a wave, like a snake slithering through grass. It’s a work of kinetic art and a demonstration of trigonometry, and it can also be a magic wand for catalyzing interest in physics. This is exactly what happened at Roiti High School in Ferrara, Italy, back in 2018.
That’s when Ed Moriarty, a technical instructor with MIT’s Edgerton Center, helped Roiti teachers set up a club in which students design and construct elaborate machines like amphibious hovercrafts, dancing pianos, and water-powered rockets. This hands-on approach to learning is unlike the lectures, worksheets, and tests found in most Roiti classes. Students say it’s shifted their view of education, it’s helped close the gender gap in science, and it’s making them rethink their career plans.