Day 45: Zero Robotics Competition

A few students asked me to advise an after school programming club. Most of these students took AP Computer Science last year and want to continue learning about computer science. Last spring, we competed in a local Java Programming competition, and this year they wanted to do more competitions. We decided to enter the Zero Robotics competition this fall. The competition is perfect for this group. It requires a combination of computer science, physics, and linear algebra. Today after school, we made our first submission for the competition. This video shows our “sphere” (i.e., the robot) avoid debris, capture the laser, and shoot the comet. (That’s all good stuff.) Our current submission ranks us 18th. We have six days to improve our algorithms!

Day 44: Free Fall

Even though it was a bit chilly, we had a great time walking outside to the stadium and dropping various objects (some of the more interesting: old globe, broken chair, shoe, empty box) off of the bleachers. Each student captured video of a drop on an iPad and then we retired back inside to use Vernier’s Video Physics and Graphical Analysis apps to graphically and mathematically model the motion of an object falling. We also captured the acceleration of each object on the whiteboard to guide our closing discussion. The first statement shared was that “heavier objects have a greater acceleration.” The second statement shared refuted that idea “except for a couple objects, everything seems to have about the same acceleration.” Then the bell rang. We’ll pick this up on Monday and students may need a reminder about measurement uncertainty.

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  ##capm ##tech  

Day 43: Peer Code Reviews

AP Computer Science students spend the second half of class conducting peer code reviews. I used the peer review functionality of Canvas to assign students peer reviews. I was pleased with the discussions I overhead and the constructive comments being shared. We have an exam tomorrow, but I think we will continue peer reviews on Monday since several pairs indicated they need more time. I need to do this more often!

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Day 42: Cityscape Lab

My colleague at our sister high school suggested a graphical cityscape lab for AP Computer Science. The purpose of the lab is for students to demonstrate that they can design and implement classes to achieve encapsulation and reuse. The cityscape lab requires students to design and implement at least three classes and then instantiate several objects of these classes to build a cityscape. As always, some student finish the minimum requirements sooner than others. I challenged these students to add an element of randomness or animation to their cityscape. The following is one of my favorites.

Day 41: Physics West Meeting

One a month, physics teachers in the western suburbs meet to “talk shop,” share ideas, and perform demos. October’s meeting was hosted by my colleagues and I at our high school. We all built a railgun based on a linear homopolar motor as a make-and-take. Here is a video:

  ##magnetism  

Day 40: Rough Start to CAPM

After every day I’ve taught, I’ve written a brief reflection about that day’s lesson for each of my classes. Sometimes the reflection is very brief and superficial and sometimes it is detailed and full of wisdom for my future self. I go back and read these reflections each year when preparing for the upcoming unit. Given my poor memory, these have been valuable in helping me to prevent the same mistakes over and over again.

Here’s my reflection for today’s paradigm lab for constant acceleration particle model:

Today’s class was a train wreck. I planned to start the constant-acceleration particle model unit in much the same way as Kelly O’Shea. However, I thought that students viewing the graphs on iPads connected to a single LabQuest 2 would be better than students watching the project image of the LoggerPro screen. I first discovered that the LabQuest 2 only works with Vernier motion sensors and not PASCO ones. I did finally find an old Vernier motion sensor, but it was somewhat temperamental collecting useful data. I was able to get a good run after some positioning adjustments. However, when I had 20 iPads all connect to the LabQuest 2, they wouldn’t all be updated at the same time. Some would display the latest data from the LabQuest 2 and some would be stuck waiting to refresh or showing a previous run’s data. I probably tried to connect too many devices to the same LabQuest 2. As a result, I ended up projecting my iPad on the large screen. At this point, I was basically back to displaying the data for all to see, but I was displaying the Graphical Analysis app on the iPad instead of the more complete LoggerPro display. Today was an example of technology not helping students. I’ll have to clean up my mess on Wednesday when I’m next in class.

I’ll spare you all the photo of the crying students after this lesson.

  ##capm ##paradigmlab ##setbacks  

Day 39: High-Altitude Balloon Launch and Recovery

Today, Physics Club launched and recovered a high altitude balloon. It was our fourth launch and we were joined by a couple of junior high students participating in our Science under the Sea project, a physicist from Fermilab, and an alumni who is a HAM radio expert. The ballon burst just over 105,000 feet. We will have to wait and download the data from the onboard GPS to see if we broke last year’s altitude record. The weather was beautiful and the recovery was relatively easy as the payload landed in a field of corn about half-a-mile from a road.

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