## Interactive Measurement Practice

As we begin the school year in the wake of Covid-19, traditional labs and hands-on activities are very limited. Therefore, we need to find ways to do things virtually. I developed this interactive measurement & scale-reading activity using Construct 3. Students can use this to practice reading the scale on a ruler and reading the volume in three different-sized graduated cylinders.

### Length Measurement Features

• Draggable ruler
• Checks accuracy of measurement and provides feedback.
• Accepts measurements within ±0.015 cm of the actual length.
• Provides encouragement to estimate as accurately as possible for measurements within ±0.03 cm of the actual length.
• Requires input of units (cm) for each measurement.
• Challenges users to measure five lengths in a row. Any mistakes will cause the count to start over.

Source Construct 3 file (open with construct.net)

### Volume Measurement Features

• Checks accuracy of measurement and provides feedback.
• Accepts a small range of estimates for the final digit in the reading.
• Requires recording volumes to the level of precision/resolution of the graduated cylinder.
• Requires input of units (ml) for each measurement.
• Requires users to correctly measure 6 volumes to complete the activity (2 for each of the cylinder sizes).

Source Construct 3 file (open with construct.net)

## Data Analysis Tool

UPDATE: As of July 2020, I have updated the data analysis tool to use some cool newer JavaScript libraries. My graphing library is Chart.js (it has some fancy animation options and allows copy/pasting of generated graphs) and Handsontable (which uses an excel-like grid for inputting data, which also allows copy/pasting from excel or other spreadsheet programs).

In Modeling Instruction and Advanced Placement science courses, students must be able to analyze data to determine the relationship between two variables. To make this easier, I created a Data Analysis Tool.

I’ve tried a few ways for students to graph data:

To start the year, I always have students graph data using graph paper for a couple weeks.  I think students need to be able to do it themselves and understand the basic considerations of choosing scales, deciding what to plot where, and finding slopes and y-intercepts manually before having a device/computer do it for them.

In the past, after students got more comfortable graphing things by hand, I showed them how to use some tools (in the past, this tool has been LoggerPro).  But, after having to guide students through the LoggerPro linearization process time and time again for each lab, I wanted to find a better solution. My current version works pretty well, but I’d welcome your feedback. I also have a version with linearization tools hidden.

## Version 1.0

In June of 2016, I wrote a quick online data analysis tool (using the graphing capabilities of CanvasJS).  Check it out here.  It does most of what I need it to, which is to take a set of data, graph it, allow students to linearize it (graph y vs. x2, y vs. 1/x, etc.), and output the best-fit line equation.

I also created a version with the linearization capabilities hidden (to require students to do this manually).

Improvements I may try to implement in the future:

• Data input improvements (arrow keys for navigating) – implemented though still has some quirks
• Display the squared, cubed, or inverse of a column in the data table (?)
• Graph multiple data sets simultaneously

## Density Lab Simulation

Unit 1 of the Modeling Instruction chemistry curriculum has students develop the ideas of mass and volume and then the relationship between them (density). Consistent with the Modeling Instruction method, students collect data and analyze that data to develop a model to describe a relationship.

This year, my school is beginning virtually. It will be a challenge to transform our chemistry lab activities to the online format until we are able to resume in-person classes (and even then, we will be limited in the types of activities that we can do while “socially distant”). As I thought about facilitating my class online, I discovered Construct.net, which is typically used to produce online games. I found that it can be adapted to simulate labs like this one. I created a couple different versions. Check them out!

It simply allows students to measure the mass and volume of several samples of a material (currently, it has steel, aluminum, and wood). The first sample is always the same size for everybody, but subsequent samples are random sizes/masses (so encourage students to include a wide range of sample sizes in their data). Students can then use whatever graphing tools desired to analyze the data. A few years ago, I made a simple data analysis tool that would work well for this.

I like that the water displacement version shows which substances sink and float. Also, you can produce some samples that, because of their size or density (wood) do not completely submerge. This provides a chance to discuss what the water displacement measurement represents.

The water displacement version can also be used to show the relationship between cm3 and ml. Just measure a sample with the ruler and then dunk it in the water.

• More realistic interactions: an on-screen ruler to measure length, width, and height would build measurement skills. But, Contruct.net is really a 2-dimensional tool, so measuring that third dimension would be a challenge.
• I had a request for cylindrical samples to better match the materials many of us use for the actual lab activity. It’s an idea for the future, especially if this is used to supplement the in-person activity for those who are absent.
• UPDATE July 27, 2020:
• Changed the button text to say “New Size”
• Clarified the instructions.

The source files are available for anyone wanting to modify or extend. This was my first time using Construct.net, so keep that in mind before you berate me for my shoddy work 🙂. I do encourage anyone else working on this or similar lab simulations to share what you come up with.

Construct.net Source File – Version 1 (LxWxH Volume measurement)

Construct.net Source File – Version 2 (Water Displacement Volume measurement)

## Vernier LoggerPro Function Reference

LoggerPro functions for use in Calculated Columns.  I always Google for this information and can never find it online.  It is hidden in the “Help” for LoggerPro (who would think to look there!?).

### Functions

– Trigonometric functions will use degrees or radians as set in the Settings for (file name) in the File menu.

## trigonometric

If data are imported from an experiment file, you may want to specify the independent column. For example, if the imported data included “time” in the first column but you wanted to calculate the derivative of pH with respect to volume, you have to define the derivative as derivative(“pH”,”Volume”).

## Coulomb’s Law Simulation

In the Modeling Instruction materials for Physics: E&M, there are videos provided that can be analyzed to develop quantitative relationships between electrostatic force, separation distance, and charge quantity.  However, this process is rather complex and requires using distance as a proxy for force.  While the inverse-square relationship comes out (though even that can be difficult to determine if students aren’t very careful about the video analysis), it does not allow for a determination of the Coulomb constant, since the charge of the objects in the video is not known.

To try to remove some of the difficulties while still using the data analysis to develop model for electrostatic force interactions, I developed a simulation that allows a more direct “measurement” of charge, distance, and force.

Simulation 1: Using a Spring as a Measure of Force

Simulation 2: Direct Measurement of Force

This simulation is great to use in combination with my data analysis tool to analyze the relationship between distance, charge, and forces.

## Computational Modeling in Physics

As part of my action research project for my Master of Natural Science degree from Arizona State University (home of Modeling Instruction), my research partner Mr. Wirth and I looked at how we could apply computational modeling at several key points in the curriculum to improve students’ understanding of physics.

We worked with a small sample group, but we had some promising results. Spreadsheets allowed students to solve more complex problems than can typically be solved in a first-year physics course. Spreadsheets freed students a bit to think about the problem rather than focusing on the computation, though learning to graph and write equations in excel was challenging.

You can find our complete report here.

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