Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Revamping Intro Physics Laboratory - Part 5

{Note: If you wish to follow what has transpired so far in this series, here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 3-Follow-up, and Part 4}

I read this post in PhysicsForums and immediately realized that this is an excellent laboratory experiment and a perfect one to follow what I've described in Part 4. This was done as part of a test, but I can see this as being quite suitable for an intro undergraduate lab, especially after they had just done springs and Hooke's law.

Again, this gives them a task, rather than an explicit set of instructions on what to do. They will need to know about the elastic spring extension and also simple, basic mechanics. So this may not be that suitable to be done at the very beginning of the course, but maybe after a couple of weeks or so to make sure the students have been introduced to simple 1D kinematics. But the fact that this student could have done it, and done it well, indicates that this is certainly doable.

BTW, do most "elastic bands" obey Hooke's law rather well? I remember testing a typical rubber band one time, and it deviated from linearity rather easily. It would be a cruel thing to do to give the students such elastic bands! :)



Peter said...

In the line of your revamping, from "Confused at a higher level":

Nice, I think.

ZapperZ said...

Thanks for the link. That is certainly a nice exercise, and a nice lesson for the students to take away.

I suppose that's why I prefer to give a more "open ended" experiment, or have them accomplish a task, rather than have them "prove a theory". The latter, it seems to me, is rather boring, because you tend to know what the final outcome is supposed to be, and so, what's the big deal? Couple with the fact that the instructions on how to get there are written in explicit detail, and you got one rather mundane exercise.


Kent Leung said...

That is a nice experiment. For a science class in high-school, we had a challenge where we had to drop an egg from the 3rd floor of a building without breaking it by constructing support from only paper & tape. This exercise was complete rubbish. Hardly any science thinking involved. There was no pre-quantified calculations but only people thinking of crazy ideas like parachutes or padding, etc...