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We use a set of spring-loaded projectile launchers to measure velocity, vertical height, horizontal distance, etc. After the students have completed the physical lab, they can compare their results with a computer simulation that they have designed. Each student has their own separate GlowScript account, and they program the simulation themselves.

What makes this a good engineering lesson?

At the end of this unit, students will be able to complete basic VPython programs and adjust the physics parameters as new variables are introduced. This should give them a visual context of the effect of changes that are normally not seen, such as the effect of air resistance on a projectile.

Goals or objectives

The main goal of the lesson is to introduce students to some rudimentary computer programming that will complement the physical lab experiments that they perform.

Planning and preparation

Initially, all the students will spend 2-3 lessons going over some basic programming language. This does not have to be extremely detailed, if the students can program something simple such as producing a sphere, they should be able to start programming using vpython. Once the students are comfortable with making basic shapes, they will start designing a projectile motion simulation. On the physics end, the students will have to be able to calculate projectile motion, which means understanding momentum, gravity, and some basic trigonometry.

The programming will be done in several steps. Students will start by programming a sphere hovering above a plane. After each step, the students will add more parameters such as initial velocity, acceleration of gravity, mass of the object, and rate of computation. Upon completion, the student will also add in a graph, so that at different points the object can be analyzed for height, time, and acceleration. The program will be saved in the students’ GlowScript account, and different parameters...

We use a set of spring-loaded projectile launchers to measure velocity, vertical height, horizontal distance, etc. After the students have completed the physical lab, they can compare their results with a computer simulation that they have designed. Each student has their own separate GlowScript account, and they program the simulation themselves.

What makes this a good engineering lesson?

At the end of this unit, students will be able to complete basic VPython programs and adjust the physics parameters as new variables are introduced. This should give them a visual context of the effect of changes that are normally not seen, such as the effect of air resistance on a projectile.

Goals or objectives

The main goal of the lesson is to introduce students to some rudimentary computer programming that will complement the physical lab experiments that they perform.

Planning and preparation

Initially, all the students will spend 2-3 lessons going over some basic programming language. This does not have to be extremely detailed, if the students can program something simple such as producing a sphere, they should be able to start programming using vpython. Once the students are comfortable with making basic shapes, they will start designing a projectile motion simulation. On the physics end, the students will have to be able to calculate projectile motion, which means understanding momentum, gravity, and some basic trigonometry.

The programming will be done in several steps. Students will start by programming a sphere hovering above a plane. After each step, the students will add more parameters such as initial velocity, acceleration of gravity, mass of the object, and rate of computation. Upon completion, the student will also add in a graph, so that at different points the object can be analyzed for height, time, and acceleration. The program will be saved in the students’ GlowScript account, and different parameters such as air resistance and force can be added as those concepts are taught.

Outcomes

Once the initial simulation is completed the students will have to answer questions based on their program. An example question could be: What is the height that the projectile has traveled 1.3 seconds after the initial liftoff? The answer will be found on the graph that is generated through vpython, and the student will have to prove that this answer is correct on paper as well.

Formative assessment will be done via the graphs and proving the results on paper. (See above). Summative assessments will be done in the same way, but they will include previous simulations as well. This is the point of these simulations; as each new concept is learned, it will change the parameters and outcome of the previous concept. This also can be linked to artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Vpython examples can be found all over the internet. I believe the key to this being a useful learning tool is that each step is done with a certain amount of trial and error by the students. Rather than just giving the correct code, the teacher will give the basic steps, but leave it up to the students to change the parameters around until the simulations work as they’re supposed to.