Physics: How to Say Goodbye!

The last weeks of physics are a battle.  Seniors are done AND we have class.  These are two almost mutually exclusive truths.  As I lamented in my roller coaster project post, these days are about compromise.  With the coasters done and a handful of classes remaining, what do I do?  This year, I decided to give the students the choice between two options.  During this difficult COVID year and while teaching in-person and remote students simultaneously, options are my best friend.

Option 1: The Lift!

lift project regular physics DiSanto 
It is always a joy to watch the problem-solving process during the roller coaster build.  The students communicate more and better than during whiteboarding and labs.  Why not keep this up?  For the students who chose this option, I handed out a packet with the objective, the rules, guiding details for journaling, and space for journal entries.

The objective is for the students to design and build a device that brings their marble passenger from the tabletop to the entrance of the coaster with only a single release from the operator.  

Here were the ground rules (written to the students):
  1. You and your partner(s) are the designers of this device.  If you do any research or “borrow” any ideas, you must cite your sources and modify those designs to make them your own.
  2. All materials and tools are provided by me.  If you need anything beyond what is provided, it must be approved by me and you must supply it.  The building will happen in our classroom.  Very important: You can never have nothing to do so you must come prepared to work each time our class meets. 
  3. Every device can only be activated by a single external force (one push, one pull, one release, one twist, etc.) from your hand.  This activation force can last no longer than 1 second.  After activation, the marble must reach the entrance of the coaster on its own.
  4. The device must be placed on the tabletop or floor next to your coaster.  It cannot be mounted to the tabletop or floor.  The device may not touch or be mounted to any objects outside of the device itself, including (but not limited to) walls, the ceiling, and the roller coaster.
  5. The device must incorporate phenomena from each unit studied this year.  Motion (CVPM/CAPM), forces (BFPM/UBFPM), momentum (MTM), and energy (ETM) must be actively and purposefully used.
  6. Your device may not include any electronic components.  It must be 100% mechanical (as in no power source needed…no batteries, no plugging it in, etc.).
  7. Each individual must write a substantive, metacognitive journal throughout the entire process.  See the guidelines in the journal section.
I placed all the materials around the room for them to play around with.  Here is what they had:

Over the last few classes, bobbins became pulleys, mousetraps became launchers, and PVC and pipe insulation became track and support structure.
example of lift project 1 disanto
Here is an example of an elevator design.  The students can get the marble to the proper height and are now working on the release mechanism!

example of lift project 2 disanto
This is a creative approach to the problem modeled after a ride.  A weight connected to a string/shoelace (threaded inside the insulation) will pull the marble to the top of the hoop structure.

Whether these designs work or not really isn't the point.  Resilience is the true muscle we are flexing here!

Update: Here is an example of a functional lift! Wooohooooo!

Option 2: Physics YouTuber

video project cover disanto

All year the students have been watching my YouTube channel (serves as our "textbook") to introduce, reinforce, or dive deeply into our course skills.  I often do small demos within these videos with my own children as my helpers!  Now, it's my students' turn!  Those who chose this option were tasked with creating a video covering one concept from each of our three main units: motion, forces, and energy/momentum.

Here are the details (written to the students):

Your video MUST consist of a minimum of 3 segments.  Here are the general topics for each segment:

  • Segment 1: Motion  à explore something from CVPM and/or CAPM
  • Segment 2: Forces à explore something from BFPM and/or UBFPM
  • Segment 3: Energy/Momentum à explore something from MTM and/or ETM

This way, your overall video will cover topics from the ENTIRE YEAR!!!  Some segments can be longer than others.  The requirements for each segment are listed below.  Your total video must be at least 5 minutes long and cannot be longer than 15 minutes.  The minimum time cannot include filler, bloopers, credits, long transitions/titles, etc.  It must be at least 5 minutes of solid physics-ing.

 Each segment must include the following components:

1.      You will pose a question or present a scenario

      Here are some examples: Can I prove acceleration due to gravity is 9.8m/s2? What is the difference between an isolated and non-isolated system? I am going to analyze this example using conservation of energy.

2.      Then you will review the physics behind the concept.  You can do this review in any form you wish.  You can be in the video in front of a whiteboard while drawing and talking, have descriptive images and text, include a voice-over on top of visual explanation, etc. 

      Looking at my first question in my examples above (Can I prove acceleration due to gravity is 9.8m/s2?): I would review the concepts of free fall, describing the position vs. time, velocity vs. time, acceleration vs. time graphs on a whiteboard, emphasizing where 9.8m/s2 appears.

3.     After your review, you will perform a physical demonstration on camera to answer your question or model the scenario and support your review of the material. 

Continuing from my example: I could drop a mass from CT with height markers included, take a slow-motion video and plot position vs. time.  Another option would be dropping a ball over a motion detector and showing the graphs.   Or another option would be dropping a mass from a high height and then dropping a coffee filter and showing the difference in the graphs or times. 

4.      Finally, you will conclude with a summary of your example which includes a list (audio/visual) of the SKILLS you demonstrated at the end of each segment! 

Continuing from my example: I could recap the key learning from the example and list the CAPM skills and/or UBFPM skills I used! 

This is not a ground-breaking assignment by any means.  But it is tried and true.  The students enjoy putting their own spin on physics, choosing what to analyze, working with each other, and going outside to film!  This project has also been great for my remote students.  There is no need for them to come to school to pick up supplies as they did for the egg drop and the coaster.  They can just get started!

In conclusion...

Regardless of which option the students chose, both achieve my main objective: keep them engaging in physics until the end and have fun! Done and done.

Each of my packets end with a good-bye poem to my kids.  I am NOT a poet but I love rhyming!  So why not?  I often send out physics-based poems to nudge out some smiles and build some community throughout the course of the year!  Here is my good-bye poem:
goodbye to physics poem DiSanto


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