The Lamplighter School, Dallas, TX
Bill Burton, science teacher and science curriculum coordinator at the Lamplighter School in Dallas, Texas, provides hands-on science experiences by putting his students into experiments. To study friction with his first graders, Burton seated a student on a smooth board and had the student pull him or herself across several hundred tennis balls. The rope used for pulling was connected to a chair along with a Vernier Force Plate. As students experienced this activity, a graph of the data collected by the Force Plate was projected on an interactive whiteboard. This led to great class discussions about how the force used to pull the student affected friction.
Burton also had older students grow cucumbers while turning the process into a cross-curricular unit. Burton hopes to move some of his experiments outside of the classroom by using mobile technologies from Vernier. By making science real for students, Burton is helping to build students’ 21st century skills, which are the foundation for students’ future success in science and other disciplines.
Cardigan Mountain School, Canaan, NH
Educators at Cardigan Middle School in Canaan, New Hampshire, believe that students should learn content and skills that are attuned to the requirements of their students’ future job market. To do so, David Auerbach and his colleagues in the science department devote the majority of class time to hands-on activities and mirror a commercial research facility in their laboratory.
One hands-on activity is the C-Prize project, a takeoff of the X-Prize, in which experimentation is combined with data gathering and report writing. During the project, students construct and test rocket prototypes to learn about speed, velocity, and acceleration. They additionally identify variables, develop hypotheses, and analyze data collected using Vernier Photogates.
Greenhills School, Ann Arbor, MI
Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, recently finalized its installation of a rooftop wind turbine system that uses voltage sensors, current sensors, and supporting software and hardware from Vernier. Using the system, students can monitor data collected, calculated, and displayed in real-time on the school’s large screen TV monitor.
As part of an end-of-year project, eighth grade students in Christine Gleason’s class build a classroom-sized alternative energy system that powers a vehicle, machine, or other structure, which they also build. With the help of the Vernier/NSTA grant, students will take electrical power measurements (comparable to those being made on the school’s wind turbine system) on their classroom projects and on their home appliances. This allows students to improve their classroom designs and gain practical experience with the advantages and disadvantages of different renewable and non-renewable electrical power sources.
Boston University Academy, Boston, MA
Gary Garber of Boston University Academy in Boston, Massachusetts, creates an active, inquiry-based learning environment for his high school students where they collaborate on ideas, design solutions to problems, and share results. Students in his class are additionally able to share their ideas through a cloud-based platform, developed in part by Garber, and then engage in classroom-wide discussions.
During one of Garber’s activities, students develop a model for a pendulum. However, unlike many traditional high school physics experiments of this nature, this investigation requires students to use Vernier sensors—including the Photogate, Motion Detector, and an accelerometer—as well as computer modeling to further their physics understanding. In addition to analyzing their own findings, students are able to analyze data that Garber collected using the Vernier Wireless Dynamics System during a pendulum experiment on a NASA reduced gravity flight.
Northview High School, Grand Rapids, MI
At Northview High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, students use the QPOE2 process—Question, Prediction, Observation, Explanation, and Evaluation—for scientific inquiry and investigation. Students in Brian Bollone’s class will use this process, in conjunction with an array of Vernier sensors, to research quantitative questions regarding the measurable chemical factors during either an animal decomposition or an entomological activity associated with a corpse. These factors include carbon dioxide production/oxygen consumption, soil pH, soil moisture content, and ethanol production.
During the activity, students will correlate their data with daily qualitative measurements of entomological activity and photographs, and they will test their hypothesis using still-born fetal pigs in a secure location on the school campus. The activity will deepen students’ understanding of forensic entomology.
DeSoto Central High School, Southhaven, MS
With the help of teacher Ashley Webb, the “Creating Leaders in STEM” program at Central High School in Southhaven, Mississippi, provides innovative opportunities for AP Physics and AP Environmental Science students to review for their AP tests while helping younger students engage in STEM education.
During the program, the high school physics students will use inquiry-based investigations and Vernier technology to introduce sixth-grade students at the school’s feeder school to Newton’s three laws. The high school students will then assist the groups as they participate in an engineering design challenge, which involves building and launching a water-propelled rocket. As a result of the program, an interest in STEM education will be sparked early on in the younger students, while high school students will strengthen their conceptual understanding of physics.
Dr. Paul Adams
Fort Hays State University, Hays, KS
Dr. Paul Adams of Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, uses high-altitude ballooning challenges with students in both pre-engineering classes and undergraduate research experiences to help develop their professional science and engineering skills. The challenges—which focus on bacteria collection, exposure of bacteria to cosmic rays, temperature and pressure profiles of the atmosphere, and more—require students to design an investigation to collect data using Vernier technology, engineer a solution to safely launch and recover the scientific payload, and analyze the data.
To further expand on these challenges, Dr. Adams will have students migrate the Vernier sensors to an Arduino, an open-source electronics prototyping platform. The goal is to have students engineer a lighter and customized data-collection system, as one of the obstacles faced is the cost per kilogram to launch the balloon.