Day 3: Whirly-gig Lab


College-Prep Physics: Whirly-gig Experimental Design Lab

“What do you notice about the whirly-gig? What do you wonder? Pick a wonder question and design an experiment around it. Describe your experiment in detail. What will you measure? How will you measure it? What will you change? What will you keep the same?” (Each student designs his/her own experiment.)

Students carry out their individual experiments, with help from their lab partners. Once students finish their experiments and write up their data analysis and conclusion, I tell them about the Whirly-gig Challenge — build a whirly-gig with the longest air time. Now each student shares out their results (even if unrelated to air time) KNOWING the challenge lies ahead — helps them stay focused. After the last student shares, each lab group has 10  minutes to build their spinner. Then we head to the staircase, each group drops their spinner one at a time, and I time the fall with a stopwatch.

Here’s where I got my inspiration for this lab, and the templates:

PS: To make the year more interesting, I’m incorporating many of these lab challenges into a Physics Olympics. This is the second event we’ve done (the pasta tower was the first, though I didn’t tell them until the next day). Each event has it’s own scoring, and I keep track of how many points each team/kid earns. The points aren’t tied to grades, but just some fun competition and I’ll have some prizes at the end of the year.


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About Frank Noschese

HS Physics Teacher constantly questioning my teaching.

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