How Does a Trampoline Work?

By Ann Johnson

George Nissen, an Iowa native, invented the first trampoline in the 1930's. He tried out his jumping machine at summer camp, where he was a councilor during college. He later took his invention on the road, using it in his traveling acrobatics act, the Three Leonardos. When traveling through Mexico he was inspired by the Spanish word for diving board, el trampoline. Trampoline became the registered trademark for his invention.

Jumping Machine

George Nissen, an Iowa native, invented the first trampoline in the 1930's. He tried out his jumping machine at summer camp, where he was a councilor during college. He later took his invention on the road, using it in his traveling acrobatics act, the Three Leonardos. When traveling through Mexico he was inspired by the Spanish word for diving board, el trampoline. Trampoline became the registered trademark for his invention.

Exercise and Recreation

A trampoline is a piece of exercise or recreational equipment that a person jumps on and then it bounces the person into the air. Trampolines are used in gymnastics, as exercise equipment and are popular backyard play equipment for children.

How it is Made

The trampoline can be round or rectangular, and usually consists of a sturdy metal frame supported by legs which are about three feet high. A piece of durable fabric is stretched taut over the frame. The fabric can be woven or solid. The fabric is attached to the frame by metal springs or rubber cords. The cords and springs are usually covered with padding to prevent injury to the jumper.

How it Works

When a person stands on the trampoline's fabric platform and bounces, the cord or metal springs that secure the material to the frame is elastic, in that it allows movement of the material, as the frame remains stationary. The force of the person jumping on the trampoline pushes the material down on the springs or cords, creating a reaction where the center material bounces back up, returning the push to the jumper and sending him into the air. In physics this is referred to as the "trampoline effect", when the pronounced elasticity affects the impacting object.

The Elastic Nature

It is not the tautly pulled fabric that is elastic, but the springs or cords which attach the fabric to the frame. This is a similar principle to diving boards. In a diving board, the board is not elastic, but the springs that secure the board are, causing the board to push the diver up, into the air, after the diver has first jumped onto the board.

Trampettes

Small trampolines were developed, with shorter legs and a smaller circular or rectangular center, allowing just enough room for one person to stand on the surface and run, exercise or dance in place. This allows the user to reap the benefits of the exercise exerted, while receiving minimal impact on joints and knees. Unlike larger trampolines, these do not propel people high into the air. These small trampolines are sometimes called trampettes.

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