Kinetic energy is only one form of mechanical energy. The other form is potential energy. Potential energy is the stored energy of position possessed by an object. The potential energy could be gravitational potential energy, in which case the position refers to the height above the ground. Or the potential energy could be elastic potential energy, in which case the position refers to the position of the mass on the spring relative to the equilibrium position. For our vibrating air track glider, there is no change in height. So the gravitational potential energy does not change. This form of potential energy is not of much interest in our analysis of the energy changes. There is however a change in the position of the mass relative to its equilibrium position. Every time the spring is compressed or stretched relative to its relaxed position, there is an increase in the elastic potential energy. The amount of elastic potential energy depends on the amount of stretch or compression of the spring. The equation that relates the amount of elastic potential energy (PEspring) to the amount of compression or stretch (x) is

PEspring = ½ • k•x^2

where k is the spring constant (in N/m) and x is the distance that the spring is stretched or compressed relative to the relaxed, unstretched position.

When the air track glider is at its equilibrium position (position C), it is moving it's fastest (as discussed above). At this position, the value of x is 0 meter. So the amount of elastic potential energy (PEspring) is 0 Joules. This is the position where the potential energy is the least. When the glider is at position A, the spring is stretched the greatest distance and the elastic potential energy is a maximum. A similar statement can be made for position E. At position E, the spring is compressed the most and the elastic potential energy at this location is also a maximum. Since the spring stretches as much as compresses, the elastic potential energy at position A (the stretched position) is the same as at position E (the compressed position). At these two positions - A and E - the velocity is 0 m/s and the kinetic energy is 0 J. So just like the case of a vibrating pendulum, a vibrating mass on a spring has the greatest potential energy when it has the smallest kinetic energy. And it also has the smallest potential energy (position C) when it has the greatest kinetic energy. These principles are shown in the animation below.