Day 136: Trebuchet Testing


Not my class, but our school’s “Engineering and Design” class. I’m on the fence about projects like these for physics, because, on one hand, the physics that students actually need to know and apply to their design is minimal. On the other hand, these types of design projects give students experience with non-testable skills like materials management, working with tools to build something, and group interactions. On the third hand, they help contribute to a positive classroom environment that will be remembered long after the worksheets, quizzes, and equations are forgotten.

What type of design projects do you do? How do you tie them into your curriculum?


About Frank Noschese

HS Physics Teacher constantly questioning my teaching.

6 responses to “Day 136: Trebuchet Testing”

  1. Julia HInchman says :

    We design and build Kaleidoscopes while studying plane mirrors, color, reflection, images, transparent, opaque. I send my students a letter from a "science toy company" asking for their help. THey are told the max square cm of mirror they will be allowed. THe mirror is the only thing I supply for them along with glue guns, duct-tape, and tools. They turn in an original design plan, then a final design plan ( with theme, scale diagram, materials list etc. After this point they may not change their plan. They then have a deadline to have all of their material’s in the classroom. I use a long period for their build time. Usually they then also have to finish their work outside of class. Finally they have to design and write up the broucher which, would come along with this "SCIENCE TOY" explaining the science behind when and why you see what you see. This project is a lot of work but also a lot of fun and much learning happens along the way

  2. pshircliff says :

    I like using the projects to have students fix & revise & tweak to make things work better. "The more you fail the more you learn" Too many high school labs are cookie cutter, do it once, this is what you were supposed to learn. Real life & real science is not like that. Project labs are better approximation for what science is about. "What did I learn?" I do worry often about "tying" projects to curriculum. My students are surprised how many hand tools and power tools they had to use for Physics and how often we had to go to the shop room to do something.

  3. Anonymous says :

    I feel the same as you Frank….Don’t know how to fit the standards that the state has chosen into fun awesome projects like these

  4. jybuell says :

    Yeah I’m the same way. I leaned more heavily on big construction projects early on and have been phasing them out. The one thing I still do is air powered paper rockets but it’s really just because I think it’s fun. You don’t actually need to know physics to build a good rocket. We do the "Describe the forces at work….draw a free body diagram…" song and dance but I’d be happier if physics knowledge was a requirement for build success rather than just explanatory.

  5. cook says :

    We-Build pipe insulation roller coasters while doing PE, KE, friction, gravity… Have the students create their own video demos of Newton’s LawsEgg drop Build musical instruments while studying soundMake water rockets while fiddling with flight and reviewing Newton/PE/KE6th grade level stuffThe kids love it.One of the ways we encourage using the science to get it right the first time is by giving a budget and making kids "buy" materials with fake money. They are much more careful to think about what might happen rather than throwing stuff together. We also give a bunch of questions to work on as they go with a range of complexity. By answering the questions they can earn discounts or bonus $$ or extra materials depending on the unit. Kids get really into learning some material when it means an extra egg to practice with or some more pipe insulation. It also makes them NOT lose their marbles under the bookshelf. :)Cook

  6. Anonymous says :

    Thanks for the tips, everyone!

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