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December meeting in Plymouth

posted Dec 11, 2008, 2:16 AM by Steve Dickie
We had a great meeting last night (12/10/08). There were four (maybe 5) science education students there and at lest one who is specifically going for a physics minor.

We set a date for the February meeting for the 3rd at Divine Child High School in Dearborn. The theme will be technology in teaching.

Demos for the Night:

Paul brought his toys. He highly recommends toys for teaching physics. Now, we all recommend toys when teaching physics, but Paul truly embraces their use. Be buys lots and in bulk so the kids get to play. He likes toys because they tend to be cheaper than the same stuff sold from science supply companies, although often not quite as repeatable. He showed a variety of car types. Some that replace those constant velocity cars and some that simply roll that can be sent down a ramp but are big enough for a motion sensor to see.

One toy he showed off he still hasn't figured out how to make it work was a frog that climbs a chain. He figured he could do elevator labs and has tried to use motion and force sensors with it but the data are very messy. I hadn't thought about it till just now, I wonder if it might be workable with some sort of video analysis.

Paul recommends Joissu for buying toys. They have really low prices so it makes it possible to get classroom sets of may different toys.

Steve (Rae) got up next and piggy backed on the toy descriptions. He has two guns that shoot suction cup darts. One of the darts has a steel ball bearing glued to the end. He asks questions like: "Which would you rather be shot with? When fired horizontally, which dart will hit the ground first? If I point them straight down and fire, which will hit the ground first?" These questions lead to discussions of force, mass, and acceleration.

Dart guns like these are getting harder to find, and Steve says as they age they get much less reliable, but if you can find some they are really useful for getting across some basic concepts.

Next up I (Steve Dickie) jumped in. Being a ham at heart I probably talked for too long. I stared by showing off my hand crank generator. Science supply companies sell one called Genecon, but these cost
about $50 ea. I made one from a hand crank flashlight. These flashlight can be found in a number of places for fairly cheap. Someone mentioned that Home Depot is selling them right now for 3 for $10. I'll be going out after school to buy a pile my self. Anyway if you're interested in doing this yourself it is really not too hard. I have instructions on my own site and I'll be improving them at some point soon.

Next I shared an idea which was one I stole and adapted from Mark Davids. Mark has showed, in the past, how you can take a cheap solar cell and attach it to a portable amplifier to "hear" the 120 Hz flashing of classroom lights. All you need to do is solder the solar cell to a cable from some cheap headphones and plug it in. I realized I can plug the same cable into the microphone jack on a computer and use an oscilloscope program in order to see the fluctuations in the light. I use a free program called Visual Analyser for this. I also use another free program called Audacity as a recording oscilloscope. For some ideas on how you can do a variety of labs/demos with a computer a less than $10 in parts and how you can make your own solarcell sensor you can check out my web page.

Last, but certainly not least was Laura. Laura shared a list of questions she uses with her students. The questions are designed to have two possible answers, the correct one and one that is a typical misconception. Students then must pick one side and she has them stand up and take physical sides. Their task is to then convince people on the other side to cross the lines. Laura observes and listens. By the time they're done she has a very good idea of what they know and what they don't know about a subject.

Laura also shared a link to the PhET site. I'm not going to tell you what this is. You just need to go there and look around. You'll be glad you did.