Physics in Action!
Building devices and contraptions that move in physics class is a double bladed sword. The novelty of building and creating things that move is very fun and engaging, but then making sense of the motion has potential pitfalls. Describing, graphing and understanding one dimensional motion is riddled with misconceptions and challenging aspects.
You want me to build what?
Alzar physics students preparing to build a device that showcases acceleration.
“Use the equipment provided to build a contraption that showcases acceleration, then calculate the magnitude of the acceleration”, was the assigned task. No directions, no recipe, no parameters or limits were imposed. Students were required to use their ingenuity and creativity to complete the task.
With a less than enthusiastic start, soon enough, pulleys, strings, carts and stands were being tinkered together and, voila an overly complicated product was created. The cart repeated moved in repeatable ways. Watch it play out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4YQhhrINhw&feature=youtu.be
Next, the hard part; calculating the magnitude of the acceleration.
With little experience with physics and time together, students formulated a plan to utilize distance marks on the table, a stopwatch and their IPad video application to make accurate measurements.
Sure enough, through much discussion and research, whiteboard brainstorming the group graphed data, and calculated a very reasonable magnitude A little less than 1 m/s2.
Science is inquiry, play and sometimes just trying to accomplish a task is all thats needed to root out misconceptions. Especially physics! Next up, 2D motion analysis. Should we do catapults, trebuchets, or compressed gas launchers?