Activity Based Physics Suite: Computer Tools

The set of integrated computer tools used in the Physics Suite are described below. These are not tutorials, nor do they simulate phenomena. Instead, they enable students to learn science by engaging in authentic scientific inquiry. Students work collaboratively to collect and display data from real experiments graphically and numerically in real time, and to analyze data and develop mathematical models.

Computer Data Acquisition tools: These tools consist of an interface and software that allow data from electronic sensors to be transmitted to a computer with either Windows or Macintosh operating system for real-time graphing and analysis. Both of the most popular systems are compatible with the ABP Suite curricular materials: (1) the Lab Pro/Logger Pro system distributed by Vernier Software and Technology, and (2) the Data Studio system distributed by PASCO scientific.

VideoPoint: Analysis and Capture Software: Enables users to create and analyze digital video images. Position data extracted from each frame of a digitized movie can be graphed and analyzed using either analytic modeling or least squares fitting. A collection of QuickTime video sequences created at Dickinson College and Rochester Institute of Technology supplements classroom generated videos. This film library can be used to augment laboratory experiments, ILDs, homework assignments, and student projects. VideoPoint is published by Lenox SoftWorks and distributed by PASCO scientific. Other popular video analysis software tools include VideoGraph and World-in-Motion .

Visualizer: This software allows the display of actual physical data, the output of mathematical models, and the time evolution of vectors and trajectories in a 3-dimensional vector space. Users can display 3-dimensional vectors graphically and algebraically, demonstrate vector operations graphically, and change viewpoints, reference frames and/or coordinate systems. Developed at the Tufts University Center for Science and Mathematics Teaching (CSMT), and available from there or with LoggerPro 3 from Vernier Software and Technology.

Workshop Physics Tools (WPTools): Add-in tools‚ designed for use with Microsoft Excel, that enable users to create scatter plots or overlay graphs and do analytic mathematical modeling or least squares fitting much more easily. Distributed by Physics Academic Software and at the Workshop Physics web-site:

Calculator-Based Laboratory Tools (CBL):While one of the computer data acquisition packages affords the most user-friendly data collection and analysis for college and university classrooms, calculator-based data collection is also available. Consists of a Texas Instruments interface and programs that allow data from electronic sensors to be transmitted to TI-83, TI-86 or TI-92 graphing calculators and graphed in real time. The CBL system can be used for portable, low-cost data collection and real-time graphing where high data rates and storage capacity are not required. Distributed by Texas Instruments and Vernier Software and Technology.

Graphical Analysis: Allows students to graph data entered by hand or transferred from other software packages such as VideoPoint, Visualizer or from computer data acquisition or CBL systems. Graphical Analysis has more features than some of the other graphing routines such as error bars, least squares fitting, and analytic modeling. It is distributed by Vernier Software and Technology.

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