Ben Graves, who teaches physical science and physics at Paonia High School, has received a $500 grant from Arch Coal. He purchased two frictionless dynamic tracks and four carts to teach his students about motion and force.
Data is collected through an interface with a computer. The students will be able to collect data, investigate different problems and conduct experiments. Right now the physics students are learning to measure force.
“We didn’t really have any experiments to do with the force sensors because we lacked the other prerequisite equipment. That’s what these tracks have allowed us to do — experiments studying the way force and acceleration are related and [what] different forces [exist] at different inclines,” Graves said.
“We’ve been using the force sensors and motion sensors. We use an accelerometer to tell direction and how fast something is accelerating. So we’ve been using those with the dynamics carts to model different phenomenon in physics.
“[Students] will be designing their own experiments using these, looking at the relationship between mass and acceleration which is what Newton did to come up with his second law,” Graves said.
He hopes the frictionless track and carts will build a real world context for the students.
“Most of our world has friction. If you roll something across the table it will stop because there is friction. Friction is really hard for anyone to understand. It’s difficult to put a number to it,” Graves said. “If an object is on a flat plane and is given a tiny tap, it’s going to keep going at that speed until another force acts upon it. That’s a hard concept to go through. Kids are always wanting to say if you push an object it’s going to slow down as it goes across the table. Yes, because the wheels are rubbing against the table creating friction.”
He points out physics books always give problems about being on a frictionless track. “But the kids have never seen what is actually a non-friction [track]. What does that look like in real life? This gives them the opportunity to say, ‘Oh. A cart on a frictionless track is going to keep moving at the same speed.’ That was my main goal — to help them conceptualize the problems they are doing.”
Graves is trying to cultivate curiosity in students and have them find the answer instead of just giving them the answer.
“In today’s world, computers are going to be doing so much of the calculations for us. I don’t want to teach calculators. I want to teach people who want to ask questions about why something works or doesn’t work. Because then they can troubleshoot new answers to that. Computers can’t yet do that. They can plug in numbers and get answers, but they need a human to ask questions. That’s my end goal with these kids. I just want them to be able to ask questions.”
The new equipment is being used in two classes: each of his physics class and his freshman physical science class.
“I really appreciate that Arch Coal does [this grant program] and I think it’s great because they are able to effect change in the schools which are going to be a [source for a] lot of their employees. It’s doing a lot of good for my students,” Graves said.blog comments powered by Disqus