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Day 70: Midterm Project Proposals


College-Prep Physics: I’m returning home today from the AAPT Winter Meeting in Orlando. Another task for students to do while I’m away is to submit 3 proposals for midterm projects via WebAssign.

Day 65: Mini-Poster Presentations


College-Prep Physics: Today the students presented their mini-posters to each other. Rather than having each group present to the whole class, I had students rotate through the posters “speed dating” style. Each student got to present their poster to a small group of peers, with the groups rotating through the posters. Students also had to fill out an anonymous evaluation for each poster: Experimental Design Poster Checklist 2014. Presentations/evaluations lasted 5 minutes each with 30 seconds to rotate to the next poster.

Day 64: Mini-Posters


College-Prep Physics: Students hard at work on their mini-posters for their pull-back toy truck lab.

Day 63: Experimental Design


College-Prep Physics: We’re wrapping up constant velocity motion, but have 1 week left before Christmas break. So to help prepare students for their midterm projects (which is a student-designed lab experiment), I asked them to design an experiment for a pull-back toy truck. Later in the week they will create a mini-poster and present their poster to peers.

I also gave students some scaffolding with an experimental design packet. While they probably didn’t need it for this activity, I found that last year’s students had  a hard time with experimental design for the midterm and final projects because it was a lot more open ended than today’s activity. They’ll use the packet again for their midterm project proposals.

Here’s the experimental design packet (inspired by an Inquiry Boards framework for younger students): CP Lab Experiment Proposal – Pull Back Car 2014

Day 177: No More Microwave Experiments, Please!

20130620-215418.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: In looking back over the projects from the midterm and the final, I’m going to be placing some additional restrictions on projects next year:

  • No microwaves
  • No baking
  • No experiments you were capable of doing back middle or elementary school
  • No “Do heavy objects fall faster?” because we already did that in class
  • No objects rolling down ramps to see which rolls faster

Essentially, the project will have to be something they were only capable of doing this year because the project utilizes either:

  • new data collection techniques (e.g., video analysis, Vernier probes, etc.)
  • new physics concepts (e.g., calculating energies, analyzing momentum, etc.)

Hopefully, this will raise the bar for the projects. I want to simultaneously engage my kids in scientific inquiry AND see the world through a new lens by using their new physics tools and concepts.

Day 176: Candle Height vs. Burn Time

20130619-230905.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: A student project relating candle height to burn time. I particularly like her conclusion, in which she makes reference to the slopes of the graphs and what they mean. She did this on her own, with no prompting from me or a handout. I wish more students reasoned this way, rather than simply saying things like “when X increases, Y decreases.”

Day 175: All the Julia Sets!


AP Physics C: A student used pygame, a python-based programming language, to make this animated gif of a series Julia Sets. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here’s the how the c values progress to make the sets:

c = (-1-i); c = (-1-0.9i);  c = (-1-0.8i); … c = (-1+i)
c = (-0.9-i); c = (-0.9-0.9i); … c = (-0.9+i)
c = (-0.8-i); c = (-0.8-0.9i); … c = (-0.8+i)

c = (1-i); c = (1-0.9i); … c = (1+i)

He posted his project on GitHub:

Day 174: Conservation of Energy in a Horse Jump



20130614-193301.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: A student filmed several horse jumps and analyzed them in Logger Pro, calculating the gravitational, kinetic, and total energies. Great to see that the total energy remains relatively flat while the horse is in the air.

Day 173: Slinky Spring Constant vs. Number of Coils

20130614-164745.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: A student investigated the relationship between the number of coils in a slinky and its spring constant.

Day 172: Video Analysis of a Cartwheel




20130613-201045.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: Student used Logger Pro to do a video analysis of her doing a cartwheel. She tracked four different body parts: right foot, right hand, waist, and head. Really neat to see the different motions (constant velocity, constant acceleration) show up in the position and velocity graphs. Considering making this kind of analysis of human (or even animal) motion an assignment for next year.