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Friday, August 21, 2015

Pendulum Lab Training Video for CT-STEM

One of the lessons for the CT-STEM Project in physics is a classic, that most physics classes will do in mechanics: the simple pendulum. While this is a 'simple' experiment to run, this video outlines how to add in numerous computational thinking (CT) skills, which in turn will also address a number of bullet points within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

One point of emphasis is to have students do labs like this before formally studying the subject - we want students to do more of the process of science, and discover rules and principles of phenomena on their own, where these findings and student questions about the lab drive classroom discussions. In this case, students will need to do up to four individual controlled experiments to determine how the period depends on mass, length, angle, and the strength of gravity. By making plots, and finding best-fit functions through curve-fitting, students will develop an empirical formula (i.e. a mathematical model via data) for the period of the pendulum. They can then compare it to the accepted textbook formula, and get into good discussions of experimental uncertainties, scientific inquiry, building mathematical models, being critical of data, experimental design and methods, and so on.

It is also mentioned in the video that teachers can have students evaluate the effectiveness of measuring techniques - for one experiment use a stop watch, for a second an electronic force sensor, and a third video - for the period. And then, for gravity, the usefulness of computer simulations, using a PhET pendulum simulation.

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