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Calories From a Heat Pack

 This article was written with the intention to focus on middle school science experiments, however, I would not be surprised if high school teachers of physics and chemistry also benefit from it. How many calories of heat are in a hand warmer or “heat pack?”   The heat pack is a convenient way to warm up your hands, but it also can provide a good lesson in physical science.  It works by giving off heat in an exothermic physical change. The process is called “Fusion” which is whenever a liquid becomes a solid.  In this case, “crystallization” is the specific form of fusion because crystals are formed.  In order to melt these crystals, like melting ice, heat would have to be introduced and absorbed (endothermic).  However, in this case, in order to form crystals, the reverse happens, heat is released (exothermic).  Similarly, water has to have heat removed from it to form ice.  Freezing is an exothermic process. Figure: The heat pack will release thousands of calories as it turns from liquid to crystal.  This is the exothermic process known as fusion. But how much heat does it give off? Figure: Burning a peanut is a dramatic way to demonstrate that calories are a measure of heat.  The soda can absorb some of the heat, but most of it is actually lost to the air.  There is about 50% error in this experiment even when done correctly. The “Burn a Peanut Lab” is a well-known approach to measuring calories.  The peanut is shelled, skinned, and skewered on a paperclip.  It is then burned under a measured mass of water, for example, 200g.  A thin metal container, such as a soda can, works fairly well.  The temperature is measured both before and after and from these data you can determine the calorie content. Calories = (Mass) x (∆T) Here, the mass is in grams, and the ∆T, or change in temperature, is Celsius.  The surprise is that there are usually thousands of calories in the peanut, which makes no sense.  The lesson is that there are two types of calories: heat calories and food calories.  Food calories are 1000 heat calories, also known as a kilocalorie.  So, your 2000 calorie diet is really a 2,000,000 calorie diet! A safer experiment, or a follow-up experiment, is to measure the calories in a heat pack.  You do not necessarily have to tell the students the instructions.  They can try to figure out a process on their own.  The way I usually do this experiment is to place one in an insulating container, with about 200g of water, and click the button.  The water will begin to warm up.  Don’t forget that 1g is 1mL for water. Figure: The equipment you will need to perform the calories in a heat pack experiment.  Although, you will probably not need the fire extinguisher. Clicking the button forms a tiny crystal seed, called a nucleation site.  From this seed, the other crystals grow. The crystal seed is necessary because the liquid in the heat pack is chemically pure.  In the case of snowflakes, the seed is usually a speck of dust, but this pack contains pure Sodium Acetate which is super-saturated in water. That means that there is so much sodium acetate that cannot stay dissolved in the water and should be solid (like too much sugar at the bottom of a Kool-Aid mix).  Sodium acetate is non-toxic and is even added to food as a seasoning.  Chemically, it is a vinegar salt.  Perhaps you have eaten it on potato chips? Figure: The center of a snowflake is the point from which it grows.  This point is called a nucleation site.  (Nucleus means seed.) Since there is no speck of dust in the sodium acetate, we have to form a nucleation by other means.  Compression can squeeze the liquid into a solid (for must substances, not water) and this is how the first crystal forms for the heat pack. The heat packs are reusable.  When you need to reset the next class, simply boil the heat packs and let them cool.  They must be completely boiled because any remaining crystal can be a seed and recrystallize the whole pack. A typical result I get is that the 200g of water here heated up by 10 degrees Celsius.  That makes 2000 calories from the heat pack into the water, during this simple experiment. The whole story is a bit more complicated.  The sodium acetate (Na2CO3) is also heating up itself in the process.  If the water is set for a bit longer you can be sure that the sodium acetate and water are the same temperature.  The combination of the two heats will give you the total heat released by the heat pack.  Here is the equation: Calories to heat up water + Calories to heat up Sodium Acetate = Total heat released Qwater + Q Na2CO3 =  mCw∆T + mCs∆T  = Qtotal Here the C in the equation is the “specific heat.”  This value is different for each substance.  For water, it is 1.  For sodium acetate, it is about 2.5 (because sodium acetate is mixed with water, you may wish to check this for yourself).
 Figure: A latent heat diagram for 1 gram of water.  Notice that the same amount (80 calories) of heat is needed to either melt or freeze water.  In the case of sodium acetate, it is 63 calories/gram. Lastly, there is the concept of “latent heat” which is the amount of heat expected to be released in a phase change such as freezing or required for a phase change, such as melting.  In the case of sodium acetate, this should be about 63 calories/gram.  However, you must consider that there is likely water mixed into the heat pack, which can complicate things.  You will need to measure the mass of the heat pack to verify the Qtotal value. I recommend sticking to the familiar how many calories lab.  I hope that you enjoy extending that lab to include this new experiment.  It is fun and easy to do.  If you want to do further experiments, cutting open the sodium acetate packs can help you.  By adding green food dye you can make “kryptonite crystals,” and by pouring it vertically, you can solidify it into mountains or other shapes.  Be creative and have fun. Figure: The Matterhorn shape formed when the sodium acetate crystals grow, solidifying as they touch other sodium acetate crystals. Figure: Kryptonite is simply sodium acetate with green food dye.  These ones are forming in kitchen frying pan.

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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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To celebrate the launch of our very own high quality whiteboards, we started a new contest where you can win a 6 pack for your classroom.  Here’s how:

Share your whiteboarding classroom tips and experiences on your social media by simply adding the hashtag #WhiteBoardTeaching on any of your whiteboard related posts (twitter preferred) by 5/31/17 and you are entered. All contest Twitter posts will be displayed on our contest gallery page below where you can also vote for your favorite submission!

Good luck!

New to whiteboarding? This E-book is for you!

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Arbor Scientific Launches Slow Motion Physics Video Contest

Slow motion video capability is an exciting new feature in the latest smartphones and it hasn’t taken long for cool new slow-motion videos to surface, especially in science.

Arbor Scientific has been the leader in finding cool science tools for the past 30 years that make understanding scientific principles easy, fun and exciting for today’s students. “We started this contest as way to enable science lovers like us to easily share our smartphone slow-mo videos that can remarkably demonstrate the physics of so many complex principles. Ideally we want #SlowMoPhysics to become a new free resource available to science teachers to help teach physics in a cool way” says Andrea Kelly, Marketing Manager of Arbor Scientific.

This new slow-motion competition seeks videos from teachers, students and all people who capture demonstrations of “physics” in the world! The contest will accept submissions from December 6, 2016 to January 31, 2017. Also, the public can vote on the submissions at the contest video gallery page found on https://slowmophysics.hscampaigns.com.

The winner(s) will be selected by Arbor Scientific based on originality, popularity and educational value by March 1, 2017 and will receive a \$100 gift certificate from Arbor Scientific and the chance to be profiled via Arbor Scientific’s blog and their CoolStuff e-Newsletter mailed to over 20,000 educators.

There also is a specific Teacher Challenge!

Arbor Scientific is encouraging teachers to have their classrooms participate, and get a surprise classroom prize.  See the #SlowMoPhysics Video Contest page for further details.

Howdy Texas!

We invite you to stop by our booth #418 so that you can personally see and touch many of the “Cool tools” that we have for physics, physical science and chemistry.  We will have many products on display, but the following will be featured:

• RSpec-Explorer – View spectra live on a PC in minutes, and experience real-time spectroscopy for a fraction of the cost of like products.
• Pendulum Wave – A unique Arbor Scientific acrylic model which consists of a series of pendula with increasing time periods. When the nine pendula are simultaneously released, they produce the effect of a wave.
• Forces on Inclined Plane Demonstrator – A new Arbor Scientific tool that allows teachers and students to engage directly and easily with different forces and angles on an inclined plane. If you would like to have a more in-depth introduction to our Cool Tools, we invite you to attend our workshop on Force and Motion or any of our sponsored workshops described below.

Cool Tools for Force and Motion
Thursday, November 10 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Meeting Room 224

“Buzz” Dwight Putnam (Whitesboro High School: Marcy, NY)

These engaging demos are presented by award-winning teacher Buzz Putnam. Classroom-ready activities include Stunt Car Lab, the Monkey-Hunter “problem,” the vertical vs. horizontal acceleration demo, a simple way to prove “g” is always the same, and the Human Dynamics Cart. Learn about great tools that support STEM inquiry. Lesson plans and door prizes.

Cool Tools for Sound and Waves
Thursday, November 10  1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Meeting Room 301B, Ballroom Level
Participants will see and use innovative, hands-on activities and demos related to sound and waves. Learn how to teach about waves and wave properties, sound production and propagation, wave frequency and its relationship to sound, standing waves in springs and pipes, and a lot more. Learn about great tools that support STEM inquiry. Lesson plans and door prizes.
Presenter(s): Dwight Putnam (Whitesboro High School: Marcy, NY)

Cool Tools for Electricity and Magnetism
Thursday, November 10 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Meeting Room 301B, Ballroom Level
Study the intimate relationship between electricity and magnetism as presented by award-winning teacher Buzz Putnam. These classroom-ready activities include wiggling a bulb filament 60 times/second, what a neodymium magnet and Total Cereal have in common, levitating a frog via electromagnetism, and lighting a bulb with battery/wires. Learn about great tools that support STEM inquiry. Lesson plans and door prizes.
Presenter(s): Dwight Putnam (Whitesboro High School: Marcy, NY)

Cool Tools for Light and Color
Friday, November 11 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Meeting Room 301B, Ballroom Level
Strap in for amazing light and color demos presented by award-winning teacher Buzz Putnam. These classroom-ready activities include mixing colors to cast cyan/magenta shadows, why it’s OK to eat a black strawberry, comparing yellow light from a lemon and a smartphone, and the “mirror challenge” question! Learn about great tools that support STEM inquiry. Lesson plans and door prizes.
Presenter(s): Dwight Putnam (Whitesboro High School: Marcy, NY)

Hello California!

#CSTA16 is upon us again and we are excited to see you at our booth #100. Also, we want to let you know about our exciting and engaging workshop planned:

Cool Tools for Electricity & Magnetism
Friday, October 21 8:00am-9:30am
Room: REN Pueblo

See us at Booth 100 and our Workshop

Make a light bulb filament “dance” 60 times/second – a great demonstration showing the relationship between AC and DC current. See why the hand-crank Van de Graff is better than the electric. And many more “cool tools” that help teachers engage their students, and at the same time, make difficult concepts much easier to understand.

Presented by James Lincoln

James Lincoln is an experienced physics teacher with graduate degrees in education and applied physics. He has become known nationally as a physics education expert specializing in original demonstrations, the history of physics, and innovative hands-on instruction.

The American Association of Physics Teachers and the Brown Foundation have funded his prior physics film series and SCAAPT’s New Physics Teacher Workshops.

Lincoln currently serves as the Chair of AAPT’s Committee on Apparatus and has served as President of the Southern California Chapter of the AAPT, as a member of the California State Advisory for the Next Generation Science Standards, and as an AP Physics Exam Reader. He has also produced Videos Series for UCLA’s Physics Demos Project, Arbor Scientific, eHow.com, About.com, and edX.org.