Lab4Physics Classroom Edition Powered by Arbor Scientific

The Lab4Physics App is a helpful tool for teaching physics and physical science. It is a lab app for smartphones and tablets, and because of the familiar controls and friendly, easy-to-use interface, all your students can use it

 

The App works by using the built-in features of cell phones and tablets that convert easily to probeware, such as the accelerometer, which we will explore first.


Fig 1.  The Lab4Physics home screen.  When you open the app, there are lots of experiments you can try (which are categorized on the left) or you can go straight to the tools (right) and perform your own experiments.

 

ACCELEROMETER

 

If you shake the phone up and down, the accelerometer records this motion in 3D. Deleting the X and Z axis, we will now graph only the Y-vertical motion.

Fig 2.  It is easy to use the accelerometer to measure the earth’s gravity field strength.  Here the phone was held vertical then slowly turned to lay flat.  The gravity constant 9.8 m/s2 is measured.

The app allows you to zoom in, both vertically and horizontally, and slide the image around, just like a picture or map.  Because this interface is so familiar, students will already know how to do this.

Fig 3.  The phone’s Acceleration is measured in 3 dimensions, but typically you only need one.

Because the accelerometer is so easy to use, you will find yourself using it in many different applications, such as spring and pendulum experiments.  Note that when facing the phone, X is right and left, Y is up and down, and Z is toward and away.  The positive axes are right, up, and toward, which you can remember with thumb X, open fingers Y, palm-slap Z.

Fig 4.  Zoomed-in on the image of the above data.  Vertical zoom for precise amplitude measurements and horizontal zoom for precise time (period) measurements.

Fig 5.  A plastic bag is a convenient container for the phone when performing spring and pendulum experiments.  The touchscreen still works fine through the plastic.

 

SONOMETER

 

Using the microphone, Lab4Physics can analyze the intensity and frequency of a sound that the phone records. With this device, you can see the waveform of the frequencies that the phone picked up. Use this to compare the amplitudes of loud and quiet sounds or the frequencies of a high and low pitch.  This works as an instant oscilloscope. It is also possible to measure the period as the time between peaks, it helps to zoom in for this.

Fig 6.  The Sonometer makes a measurement of the author’s whistling ability.  The period can be measured as the peak to peak time, or the Highest peak frequency can be displayed automatically by using the Intensity vs. Frequency feature.

The waveform displayed looks transverse, but the sound is a longitudinal wave.  Therefore, it is important to explain how this wave was generated.  It was the motion of the vibrating microphone that moved a small magnet that generated the electricity that became the signal displayed. The device also can calculate the frequency of the loudest part of the signal it is detecting.  This can be used to test who sings with the highest or lowest frequency or just to check the frequencies of musical instruments.

Fig 7.  A tuning fork, which is supposed to be the musical tuning standard A 440Hz, is revealed to be very nearly correct by the Lab4Physics App’s Sonometer feature.

 

CAMERA / MOTION TRACKING

 

One of the most useful features is the ability to track an object’s motion.  Utilizing the phone’s camera, film an object (usually with a ruler in the picture), and by tracking at a specific point on the object, you can follow its motion through the frames of footage.

Fig 8.  An accelerating toy car has its motion tracked through ten frames of footage generating the expected parabola of an accelerating object.

 Because the frames are equally separated by time intervals the app can turn this data into a distance vs. time graph.  From this data, it further generates the acceleration and velocity graphs.  Even a Data Table is provided so you can sort out anomalous data or analyze further.

 

SPEEDOMETER

 

Lab4Physics also has a speedometer which is a streamlined alternative to stopwatches.  Students can, for example, set up a series of positions and click the split button to get the individual times for when the object is at that position.  Using this, graphs are generated for position and velocity.

Fig 9. A typical Speedometer experiment. Tracking the position of a toy car through space. Changing it from going slow to fast can show up on a position vs. time graph.

 

EXPERIMENTS AND LABS

 

Lab4Physics has lots of ready to go labs to instruct your students, or you can use them to give you ideas.  Here we explore some of the labs on waves.

Fig 10.  Left, a screenshot from the app shows the four labs on waves.  Choosing Do-Re-Mi takes us eventually to this screen, right, which shows how we will be exploring the frequency of a musical instrument.

 The labs take the students through the experiment in five or six steps.  They are self-contained and complete and let you know how much time the activity should take.

 


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You’re Getting Warmer! [W/Video]

The Little Shop of Physics has developed a series of videos called Flash Science, which show some exciting experiments that can be done with everyday items to demonstrate physics principles in a unique way. All of these experiments have been designed to be done by trained adults using proper safety equipment.

Heat

In physics, heat is something you do; it’s a verb. It is defined as the thermal (non-mechanical) transfer of energy. When you heat an object, you transfer energy to it, which can raise its temperature or even cause a phase change. Traditionally, three sources of heat transfer are cited: convection, conduction and radiation.

Radiation

Radiation is the transfer of thermal energy using electromangetic waves, which includes visible light, infrared radiation, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays and microwaves and radio waves. A camera flash is designed to give off a whole lot of visible light in a short amount of time. The black ink in the newspaper absorbs this radiation and increases in temperature, while the blank paper reflects the light and does not warm up nearly as much.

Conduction and Convection

When a flame is held underneath a balloon, it’s no surprise that the balloon pops. The flame is at a high enough temperature to heat and melt (or even burn) the balloon, and the air under pressure inside quickly escapes. However, when the balloon is filled with water, the flame no longer pops it. The balloon is very thin, and the thermal energy quickly gets conducted to the water on the inside. The water has a very high heat capacity, so it takes a large amount of energy to increase the temperature of the water.

The water is also effective transferring the thermal energy away from the flame. The water will undergo convection; the warm water by the flame will move upwards, and be replaced by colder water coming in from the sides. Also, since water evaporates at 100°C, liquid water has a limit on how high of a temperature it can reach.

Evaporation

Evaporation is an extremely important and sometimes overlooked form of thermal energy transfer. Evaporative cooling is the mechanism behind human sweating, and the energy stored in evaporated water is extremely important in the Earth’s weather system.

In this video the flame hounds are soaked in a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. While the alcohol burns, and releases thermal energy, the water evaporates and takes much of that thermal energy away from the flame hounds, so that it does not burn!

If you’re careful, you can even hold flaming bubbles in your hands!

Plasmas

Running electricity through the graphite pencil-lead causes the tip to get extremely hot, so hot that the graphite vaporizes and the vapor ionizes. These hot ions are used to cut aluminum foil, similar to how a plasma cutter or arc cutter works.

Erasing With Heat

Some erasable pens use thermochromic ink, which changes colors from dark to light when it is heated. When the ink is cooled (such as through the evaporation of a liquid), the ink becomes dark again. With this ink, you can erase and re-write messages over and over again!

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Arbor Scientific’s Video Contest Winners Announced

For ten weeks starting in December 2016, physics educators and their students have been uploading their short videos that capture demonstrations of physics in the world- in Slow Motion. The contest was the first of its kind by Arbor Scientific, the educational leader in finding cool science tools for making understanding scientific principles easy, fun and exciting for today’s students.
Arbor Scientific asked Paul Hewitt, a renowned physics professor and author of the best selling textbook Conceptual Physics*, to review all the video entries and choose the winner. Hewitt said “It has been a pleasure watching these. I chose INERTIA BLOCKS, mainly because of the 4 sheets pulled at the same time; a nice lift to a familiar demo”. The second winner was based upon popular votes at the contest website, receiving over 380 fan votes!

 

Both winners will receive a $100 Arbor Scientific gift certificate which will help them purchase new classroom science products, a profile on Arbor Scientifics Blog “CoolStuff” and in the CoolStuff e-newsletter mailed to over 20,000 educators monthly.

 

Amador Valley High School Watch their entry video INERTIA BLOCKS

Amador Valley High School: Students stacked blocks with cardboard pieces attached to string in between. They were able to pull out the cardboard and see that the inertia of the blocks resisted changes in motion enough to stay where they were.


Manistee High School Watch their entry video CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM


 

Conservation of Momentum by Manistee High School
Hypothesis: The higher density ball when colliding with a lower density ball will knock the lower density ball back no matter the size. Goal of

Experiment: This experiment was testing how collision is affected by the masses of the objects colliding at the same speed. This experiment also tests and confirms Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Materials:

  • Four Balls Were Used in This Video:
  • Two basketballs of an equal mass of 600.29g
  • One Volleyball with a mass of 274.19g
  • One Shot Put with a mass of 4200g

A ramp was placed on both sides of the track to launch the balls. The ramp was 7m tall, two people let the ball roll down the ramp at the same time, then observed the results.

There were three trials conducted in this experiment:

  1. First trial: Two basketballs were rolled down the ramp colliding and knocking each other back an equal distance
  2. Second trial: The basketball from the previous trial and a volleyball were rolled down the ramp. The volleyball was knocked back farther than the basketball
  3. Third Trial: The same basketball was used once again and a shot put were rolled down the ramp. The basketball was knocked back significantly by the shot put.

Conclusion: When objects collide the size of the object has little effect compared to the density (Mass) of the object.
“I’m excited for both of our winners,” said Andrea Kelly, Marketing Manager at Arbor Scientific. “They both encompass what we were looking for: presentation, substance and a passion for physics. We surpassed our goal of over 50 video entries and were impressed with the knowledge and creativity all had. We will definitely do similar contests in the near future.”

The submissions can be viewed in their entirety at www.slowmophysics.hscampaigns.com and will eventually be moved over to the website and blog to remain resources for teachers going forward.

Thanks to everyone for your participation!


*Conceptual Physics Alive! On Demand by Paul Hewitt is online on Vimeo here!

 

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Fun and engaging activities using the Energy Stick [W/Video]

Welcome to our March 2015 Issue of our CoolStuff Newsletter. This month, we are featuring a simple, safe and Cool device called an Energy Stick. Physics teacher James Lincoln demonstrates several experiments that help students understand the principles of electric current and light. James has authored many of our past CoolStuff Newsletters, and teachers have really enjoyed his insight, passion and creativity. We encourage you to let us know what you think, and please feel free to contribute to the conversation by submitting a comment. Thank you for being a CoolStuff subscriber – enjoy!

Arbor Scientific
We find the CoolStuff

The Energy Stick is a fun and easy way to demonstrate many of the principles of electric current and light. These topics are important for both the physics and the chemistry teacher. In this article I will outline several of these such experiments including new ones not seen anywhere else.

 

1) GETTING STARTED
To operate the Energy Stick, make bodily contact with both ends of it. This sends a microcurrent through your body which is amplified by the circuit inside and sent to the LEDs and speakers inside. This is how you can know whether a measurable electric current is able to flow from one side of the stick to the other.

2) CONDUCTIVITY OF VAROUS OBJECTS
One of the first experiments you will want to do with the Energy Stick is check what other objects conduct electricity. This is a good lesson in the properties of metals for chemistry, physics, or middle school science. You will find that mostly metals conduct electricity. I have also found that even distilled water conducts electricity well enough to have an effect. This should not be a surprise since the human body is mostly water and the human body works well.

Miscellaneous household items are good candidates for conductivity tests.

The open circuit fails to light

Closing hands completes the loop and current can flow

3)THE IDEA OF A COMPLETE CIRCUIT
An important lesson is that for current to flow the circuit must complete a closed loop. Thus, if there is a break anywhere in the circuit electricity cannot move through any part. This can be dramatically demonstrated by having several members of the class join hands in a ring and complete a very large circuit.

The Energy Stick’s Voltage is only about 30 milliVolts. The current output depends on the circuit it is connected through but is always only a few milliamps at most.

4) INVESTIGATIONS OF THE CURRENT
Connecting the two ends of the Energy Stick with a wire activates the circuitry inside. You can connect that wire to other electric devices such as a ammeter and voltmeter. In both cases the measurements will be quite small so it helps to have sensitive meters. The Energy Stick is a safe way to familiarize students with these probes.

5) THE PLASMA GLOBE and the Frequency of Light
A plasma globe can also be used to turn on the circuitry of the Energy Stick. Since the circuit inside amplifies very small currents, the electric field near the plasma is enough to get an effect. Inside the Energy Stick the red, green, and blue diodes turn on at different distances. This is a lesson in modern physics and chemistry. That is the meaning of the formula E=hf.

The Red Diode is the first to turn on.

As the Energy Stick is brought nearer the plasma globe, the other colors turn on. Next green, then blue last.

Red light having a lower frequency (longer wavelength) than blue and green light will can be produced at a lower voltage (energy/electric charge). Therefore, the blue diode is the last one turn on. This recalls the idea of the photoelectric effect that it is not the brightness of the light but its frequency that determines how energetic it is.


James Lincoln

Tarbut V’ Torah High School

Irvine, CA, USA

James Lincoln teaches Physics in Southern California and has won several science video contests and worked on various projects in the past few years.  James has consulted on TV’s “The Big Bang Theory” and WebTV’s “This vs. That”  and  the UCLA Physics Video Project.

Contact: [email protected]

 


 

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Help Students Reach the Ultimate Form Of Scientific Inquiry

Back to School Means Back to STEM

The Next Generation Science Standards (http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards) identifies eight practices of science and engineering as essential for all students to learn. These are:

 

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

 

One of the best ways to implement all of these practices is through the growing practice of Project Based Learning (PBL), defined by Edutopia as “a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge” (http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning). The duration of these projects can be as short as a single class period or last throughout an entire school year, but typically last from 1-3 weeks.

 

This past summer, Grade 6 – 9 science teachers, math teachers, and administrators from Warsaw (IN) Community Schools partnered with science and math educators from Ball State University during a two week summer institute to design classroom projects, strengthen science and math content knowledge, and refine inquiry practices. The Arbor Scientific “Pull-Back Car” (http://www.arborsci.com/pull-back-car) was featured in a “mini” PBL activity to illustrate how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can be integrated into an authentic data collection and analysis activity.

 

Participants were divided into 12 groups and each group of 4-5 participants was given a pull-back car. Each participant played the role of a quality control engineer, whose job description may include taking “part in the design and evaluation of the product” and being “responsible for making sure that the materials meet the requisite standards and that the equipment works correctly” (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-quality-control-engineer.htm). Each group served as a team of quality control engineers who were instructed to design and conduct tests on these cars to determine if Arbor Scientific should continue selling them.

The engineering teams addressed four questions about the cars:

  1. 1. How consistent is the distance an individual pull-back car travels after being pulled back a specified distance?
  2. 2. How consistent is the amount of time an individual pull-back car travels after being pulled back a specified distance?
  3. 3. How straight does an individual pull-back car travel?
  4. 4. Do all pull-back cars behave similarly?

 

Each team was charged with designing an experiment to answer their quality question, conducting the trials, analyzing their results, summarizing their findings on poster paper, and reporting their results to the large group.   Groups scattered in and around the building to design and conduct their trials.

 

1

After completing the data collection portion of the activity, groups returned to their tables to analyze their data and report their results.
2
After each group had completed their tasks, each group presented their findings. Examples of summary posters are shown below.
Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.01.19 PM
Once the participants had a good idea of how consistent the cars were, these cars were again used later in the summer institute to investigate additional inquiry questions, such as:

  1. 1. How does the distance the car is pulled back before release affect the total distance it travels?
  2. 2. How does the distance the car is pulled back before release affect the total time it travels?
  3. 3. How does additional weight affect the distance the car travels when pulled back a specified distance?
  4. 4. How does additional weight affect the total time the car travels when pulled back a specified distance?
  5. 5. How does the angle of incline affect the distance the car travels when pulled back a specified distance?
  6. 6. How does the angle of incline affect the total time the car travels when pulled back a specified distance?

 

Despite slight inconsistencies in the behaviors of the cars, participants in this summer institute agreed that the Arbor Scientific Pull-Back Car is an excellent inexpensive product that can be used in many different investigations – especially when one wants to integrate aspects of STEM. These cars can be used at any grade level and provide countless opportunities for students to engage in authentic scientific inquiry. They also provide an inexpensive way for math teachers to incorporate real world data collection and analysis. As a science educator, I heartily recommend this product and can honestly say that I consider it the ultimate inquiry device!

Download this article as a PDF


Dr. Joel Bryan

Ball State University

Muncie, Indiana

Dr. Bryan teaches at Ball State for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He taught all levels of high school physics (Pre-AP, AP, conceptual) and a variety of mathematics courses for 13 years before receiving his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at Texas A&M University.


 

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