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Coding with mBot: Self-Driving Vehicles Module

The topic of self-driving vehicles is one that combines diverse issues ranging from engineering to federal regulations. While it may be years before you have a self-driving car in your driveway, you can use mBot in your classroom today! Equipped with ultrasonic distance, line-following, and light-level sensors, mBot is an affordable, easy-to-program robot designed to bring coding and computer science education into the real world. With our new Coding with mBot: Self-Driving Vehicles module, a set of nine guided coding activities that build upon each other, you and your students can successfully learn to program mBot to mimic many self-driving car actions.

In Coding with mBot: Self-Driving Vehicles, students write programs to make mBot perform activities such as following a line, avoiding an obstacle, and parallel parking. Along the way students learn basic coding and troubleshooting skills. The activities are aligned with the Computer Science Teachers Association’s K-12 Computer Science Standards, and require only an mBot, the free mBlock software (based on the popular block-based programming language Scratch), and some patience for the occasional traffic jam.

In the first activity “Driving mBot,” students are introduced to mBlock software and write a program that allows them to control mBot’s movement in four directions, make sound with mBot’s buzzer, and turn on the built-in LEDs. Teaching tips and example programs in the accompanying Instructor Information support you as you facilitate student learning.

Download Activity 1, “Driving mBot,” as a free preview at www.vernier.com/mbot-msdv-e

Coding with mBot: Self-Driving Vehicles will be available soon as an electronic download and is included free with your purchase of one or more mBots from Vernier. If you already own mBot, you can purchase Coding with mBot: Self-Driving Vehicles separately (order code: MBOT-MSDV-E).

At the heart of mBot is the mCore, a microcontroller based on the Arduino Uno. In addition to the ultrasonic, line-following, and list-level sensors packaged with mBot, mCore has four RJ25 sensor ports, two motor ports, two RGB LEDs, a buzzer, and an IR transmitter/receiver. Students make use of all of those features while programming mBot to act as an autonomous vehicle. For instance, set up the RGB LEDs to work as turn signals. In addition, to help keep mBot on its track, the line-following sensor can serve as a trigger for a car alarm. mCore’s IR transmitter and receiver allow messages to be passed between mBots, making it possible to coordinate their motion and stop them from colliding.

The activities in Coding with mBot: Self-Driving Vehicles can be completed using the free mBlock app (iOS/Android) or with the more advanced mBlock software (Windows/macOS/ChromeOS). More experienced students can work even their way through the activities using the Arduino IDE.

Everyone from Google to GM® is interested in self-driving cars today. Bring that enthusiasm into the classroom with mBot and the activities in Coding with mBot: Self-Driving Vehicles. Learn more at www.vernier.com/mbot-msdv-e

Follow-Up on The Great American Eclipse

Light and UV data taken during totality in Oregon
Data taken during totality in Oregon

We enjoyed the eclipse and were pleased that so many people sent us great data collected during the event. Leading up to the eclipse, we encouraged science teachers to experience the eclipse from the path of totality, using the slogan, “The difference between a total eclipse and a partial eclipse is night and day.” Our employees were even given the day off to travel to the path of totality, as our office was only at 99 percent totality. We distributed and sold tens of thousands of eclipse glasses to ensure people could safely view the eclipse. In our previous newsletter (published just before the eclipse) we asked teachers to record and share with us data on the physical parameters (light level, UV intensity, temperature, etc.) observed during the eclipse.

See all the data from the solar eclipse »

Dave Vernier’s article in the December 2017 issue of The Physics Teacher includes data collected by many teachers around the country and by Vernier employees. Our extensive eclipse campaign also won an excellence award from One Planet.

Read more about the 2017 One Planet Best in Business and Professional Excellence Award »

Vernier helped sponsor a project to reproduce the Eddington experiment, which was an important verification of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. This group was headed up by Toby Dittrich, of Portland Community College, in Portland, Oregon. While the preliminary results of this experiment are promising, the final analysis is not yet complete, and we will provide further follow up in a later newsletter.

As part of this experiment, here is a photo with several overlapping exposures of different lengths. It includes marks around stars that are visible near the sun. The bending of light waves is what the Eddington experiment measured and can be seen in the very tiny changes in the positions of these stars.

Multiple Exposure of the Sun During Totality, with Nearby Stars Marked (photo by Richard Berry)
Multiple exposure of the sun during totality, with nearby stars marked (photo by Richard Berry)

Mark your calendar for the next total solar eclipse in the U.S. on April 8, 2024!

2017 CASE Award Winners

2018 CASE Award Winners
(left to right) Dan Jansen, CASE Project Director; Brooklyn Bush, CASE awardee; Matthew Eddy, CASE awardee; David Carter, Vernier STEM Training Director

Two agricultural science teachers were honored recently by the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE).

Brooklyn Bush of Tillamook High School, Tillamook, Oregon, received the CASE Innovation Award. This award highlights creative classroom and teaching approaches as CASE certified teachers implement and promote CASE curriculum. As a CASE teacher, Bush uses the Food Science and Safety curriculum to develop industry partnerships with the Tillamook County Creamery Association, Tillamook Smoker, Pacific Seafood, and Werner Meats. These partnerships inform students of employment opportunities in the agriculture industry and foster a network of support between students and members of the community. Bush looks forward to expanding community partnerships with Tillamook Bay Community College so her students will have the opportunity to earn college credits and industry credentials.

Matthew Eddy of Southeast Polk High School, Pleasant Hill, Iowa, received the inaugural CASE Model School Award. This award recognizes a school whose CASE certified teacher facilitates CASE instruction with the highest fidelity and offers a structured sequence of CASE courses. Eddy led the nation in adopting CASE in 2009. Through the agriculture program at Southeast Polk, he was able to field test many CASE courses. By offering a pathway for his students and engaging them through technology, including the implementation of CASE Online, Southeast Polk High School’s agriculture program ensures students are college and career ready with their knowledge of STEM.

Each award included $1,000 worth of Vernier Software & Technology products, registration to the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) convention, and a $500 travel stipend.

CASE is an ambitious project, started by the National Council for Agricultural Education in 2007 and managed by NAAE. Vernier is proud to have our technology used throughout the CASE curriculum. For additional information about CASE, please visit www.case4learning.org

Vernier Wins Two Tech & Learning Stellar Service Awards

Tech & Learning 2017 Stellar Service Award Winner

Vernier Software & Technology recently won two 2017 Tech & Learning Stellar Service Awards, which honor great achievements in customer care and satisfaction in the edtech industry. Selected by Vernier customers and Tech & Learning’s readers, Vernier was recognized for its free, hands-on workshops in the “Best Excuse To Leave The Classroom (Best In-Person Training Program)” and “Frequent Buyer Smiles (Best Perks & Extras)” categories.

Vernier offers more than 70 free, hands-on workshops nationwide each year. Led by experienced classroom teachers, the workshops offer novice and seasoned science and STEM instructors alike various ways to integrate data-collection technology into their curricula. During each four-hour workshop, educators explore classroom experiments using award-winning Vernier technology. Educators also receive an electronic copy of ready-to-use lab handouts and a free meal.

In addition to its workshops, Vernier offers educators a collection of free teaching resources, including innovative experiment ideas, data-collection apps, white papers on probeware research, a grant-writing guide, webinars, online video tutorials, and more.

Learn more about Vernier workshops »

2017 Ecology/Environmental Science Teaching Award Winner Announced

Robert Hodgdon

Robert Hodgdon of Richmond Hill Middle School in Richmond Hill, Georgia, was the 2017 recipient of the National Association of Biology Teachers’ NABT Ecology/Environmental Science Teaching Award. This award, sponsored by Vernier, was presented at the 2017 NABT Professional Development Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

Mr. Hodgdon, a 7th grade Advanced Content Life Science teacher, developed an ecological studies program that provides students, parents, and staff with opportunities to participate in real-world ecological surveys in partnership with state and federal wildlife agencies. Hodgdon’s work has been recognized by numerous local, state, and national organizations, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. For more information, visit www.nabt.org

Vernier in the Chemistry Journals (Spring 2018)

Erasing the Glow in the Dark: Controlling the Trap and Release of Electrons in Phosphorescent Materials

William A. Getz, Dannielle A. Wentzel, Max J. Palmer, and Dean J. Campbell; J. Chem. Educ., 2018, 95 (2), pp 295–299.

The authors use fluorescence spectroscopy to demonstrate the darkening effect using lower energy wavelengths on the intensity of the fluorescent light and the time until the emission is quenched. A zinc sulfide phosphor doped with Cu metal is excited by a 405 nm LED, and the fluorescence spectrum is observed. In a second trial, after the excitation, a 650 nm red laser light is shined on the phosphor. The intensity of the fluorescence spectrum is diminished and the length of time that the light is emitted is reduced. Connections to understanding how electrons move from the valence band to the conduction band and back are made in the article. It also discusses the kinetics of the changes observed as they relate to temperature and activation energy. A Vernier SpectroVis Plus spectrophotometer and Optical Fiber were used to observe the spectra produced.

Adapting Three Classic Demonstrations To Teach Radiant Energy Trapping and Transfer As Related to the Greenhouse Effect

Dwayne A. Bell and Jesse C. Marcum; J. Chem. Educ., Articles ASAP (As Soon As Publishable).

The authors address three fundamental concepts that are part of students’ understanding of the greenhouse effect and global climate change; the existence of infrared radiation, absorption of IR by greenhouse gases, and steady-state energy flow.

To demonstrate the existence of infrared radiation, the authors used a Pyranometer to measure the level of irradiance at one centimeter increments along a rainbow spectrum they produced from a 300 W theatrical light. They were able to show that there was energy being produced from the light bulb, even though the pyranometer was placed in a part of the spectrum that appears black to the naked eye.

The authors also discuss their demonstrations of how carbon dioxide molecules are energetically excited and vibrate in the presence of infrared light by using models of the molecules constructed from balls and springs. They also model how energy flows through a system using a plastic water-flow device with changeable partitions to mimic the addition or removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Demonstrations of Magnetism and Oxidation by Combustion of Iron Supplement Tablets

Max J. Palmer, Keri A. Martinez, Mayuresh G. Gadgil, and Dean J. Campbell; J. Chem. Educ., 2018, 95 (3), pp 423-427.

The authors demonstrate the conversion of iron(II) ion in iron nutrient supplements to hematite by first heating a sample with a torch. They compare the products of heating a supplement to those produced by heating iron(II) sulfate heptahydrate. The second compound produces magnetite and maghemite, which have a stronger attraction to a magnet than hematite. The strength of the magnetic fields is measured and compared using a Magnetic Field Sensor and LabQuest 2.

Nanoparticle Synthesis, Characterization, and Ecotoxicity: A Research-Based Set of Laboratory Experiments for a General Chemistry Course

Zoe N. Amaris, Daniel N. Freitas, Karen Mac, Kyle T. Gerner, Catherine Nameth, and Korin E. Wheeler; J. Chem. Educ., 2017, 94 (12), pp 1939–1945.

Students learn to synthesis silver nanoparticles and then characterize them using UV-VIS spectroscopy and dynamic light scattering. The particles are easily synthesized with readily available reagents. To measure the spectrophotometric properties, the students used a Vernier UV-VIS Spectrophotometer. Green chemistry principles are followed during the course of this experiment.

Speciation and Determination of Low Concentration of Iron in Beer Samples by Cloud Point Extraction

Lida Khalafi, Pamela Doolittle, and John Wright; J. Chem. Educ., 2018, 95 (3), pp 463-467.

Students determine the concentration of iron in beer samples. They learn how to extract the iron and then complex it so that the concentration can be determined using the Beer-Lambert relationship. They set up standards and use absorbance spectroscopy to determine the concentration of iron in the original beer sample. Vernier SpectroVis Plus Spectrophotometers were used in this experiment.

Determining the Speed of Sound and Heat Capacity Ratios of Gases by Acoustic Interferometry

Thomas D. Varberg, Bradley W. Pearlman, Ian A. Wyse, Samuel P. Gleason, Dalir H. P. Kellett, and Kenneth L. Moffett; J. Chem. Educ., 2017, 94 (12), 1995–1998.

The authors describe a method to determine the speed of sound and heat capacity through various gases. They use a microphone and white noise apparatus connected to a sound cavity, which is a long, plastic tube. The data is collected and analyzed on an Apple iPad. They refer to work done in this same area by others using Vernier LabPro and LabQuest 2.

Because the tube has a fixed length, when the white noise is introduced into the tube, an interference pattern is generated and plotted. Students can apply a Fourier transform to determine the frequency spectrum of the standing waves in the tube.

Studying Intermolecular Forces with a Dual Gas Chromatography and Boiling Point Investigation

William Patrick Cunningham, Ian Xia, Kaitlyn Wickline, Eric Ivan Garcia Huitron, and Jun Heo; J. Chem. Educ., 2018, 95 (2), pp 300–304.

The authors describe two laboratory experiences they have developed for their students to study the difference in structure and intermolecular forces between n-butanol and ethanol. Students measure and plot the boiling temperature of ethanol, n-butanol, and an equimolar mixture. They also compare the behavior of each compound and the mixture as they pass through a gas chromatograph. The goal is to try to understand how the intermolecular forces between the compounds affect their properties. They also attempt to understand the differences in the shapes of the chromatograms as the individual compounds and mixture pass through the column in the gas chromatograph. For these activities the students used a Vernier Mini GC Plus Gas Chromatograph, temperature probes, and Logger Pro 3 software on a computer.

Open-Source Low-Cost Wireless Potentiometric Instrument for pH Determination Experiments

Hao Jin, Yiheng Qin, Si Pan, Arif U. Alam, Shurong Dong, Raja Ghosh, and M. Jamal Deen; J. Chem. Educ., 2018, 95 (2), 326–330.

The authors describe how to build a low cost pH probe from readily available, off-the-shelf parts. Their system uses an Arduino® board to process the data from a glass pH electrode. They also incorporate a temperature sensor and Bluetooth® wireless technology. They program their system using the Arduino Sketch programing language. The authors hope that by building this system their students will better understand how a pH meter works. A Go!Link and Voltage Probe were used to measure the voltage produced by the glass pH electrode.

Quantifying Sucralose in a Water-Treatment Wetlands: Service-Learning in the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory

Emily C. Heider, Domenic Valenti, Ruth L. Long, Amel Garbou, Matthew Rex, and James K. Harper; J. Chem. Educ., Articles ASAP (As Soon As Publishable).

As part of a service learning approach to increasing community engagement, students perform analytical chemical tests of wetlands to determine pH, chloride, total dissolved solids, and phosphorus. Since Sucralose has been determined to be a indicator of anthropogenic waste in natural waters, students also test for this artificial sweetener. A Conductivity Probe was used to determine total dissolved solids. Students measure the conductivity of the samples in µS/cm and then converted this value to ppm.

Add Coding to Your Curriculum Using Scratch and Vernier Sensors

It is now easier than ever to connect Vernier sensors and Scratch. Both are powerful and simple to use, and they make it easy to incorporate coding into your curriculum.

Our new Go!Link extension for Scratch allows you to connect your Scratch project to a wide variety of sensors, ranging from our Sound Level Sensor to our Relative Humidity Sensor. The extension allows students to use Vernier sensors in new and engaging ways, such as using a Low-g Accelerometer to control the motion of a spaceship.

Create a projectile motion simulation in which acceleration due to gravity is controlled by the orientation of the Low-g Accelerometer. Students can see how the shape of the projectile’s motion changes as the acceleration due to gravity changes. You can also create discrepant simulations where the laws of science are mixed up or incorrect. For instance, in the projectile motion simulation, the projectile could accelerate in both the horizontal and vertical directions. When students feel that something is off, challenge them to figure out how exactly the simulation gets it wrong.

As more research science requires automation, analysis of huge data sets, and computational thinking, students can get exposure to coding and computer science with Vernier sensors and Scratch.

Learn more at www.vernier.com/scratch

Go Direct® Motion Detector Makes a New Class of Experiments Possible


With a wireless motion detector, you can easily explore relative velocities, allowing students to confirm the validity of the Galilean transformation at non-relativistic speeds in the classroom. Combining the Go Direct Sensor Carts with the Go Direct Motion Detector makes this type of experiment possible.

Try a short relative velocity experiment using two Go Direct Sensor Carts, each measuring its own position relative to a track, and a Go Direct Motion Detector mounted on one of the carts to measure its position relative to the other cart.

A velocity vs time graph showing two carts going in the same direction but with different initial speeds.

In this example, two carts are pushed in the same direction but with different initial speeds. The velocity vs. time graph clearly shows the velocity of the front cart (Velocity Y, in green) relative to the track, the velocity of the trailing cart (Velocity G, in blue) relative to the track, and the Velocity (in Red) of the front cart relative to the trailing cart. As displayed in the graph traces, the red trace always shows the difference between the green trace and blue trace velocities.

Experiment Download
Relative Velocities Student Instructor

Introducing Physics Explorations and Projects

Physics Explorations and Projects

Physics Explorations and Projects is our new NGSS-aligned experiment manual for physics and can be used at all levels of introductory physics courses. The format is guided inquiry. You are provided with ideas for introductory observations designed to engage the students’ curiosity. Brief student instructions are accompanied by additional extensive instructor information, including suggestions for class discussion and example student results. Each unit culminates in a challenge or project, such as building a Rube Goldberg machine or an egg protection device.

The experiments are written for use with any Vernier software platform, whether you use Logger Pro® 3, Graphical Analysis 4, or LabQuest® App. Because each student group will solve these inquiry-based tasks differently, no step-by-step instructions in procedure or software use are possible or desirable. Teachers using Physics Explorations and Projects should be prepared to help students learn to use the data-collection software available.

Whether you are an experienced teacher looking for some fresh approaches or exploring inquiry activities for the first time, you will find some great ideas, tools, and supporting materials in Physics Explorations and Projects.

Active Learning in Introductory Physics Courses

David Sokoloff and Ronald Thornton will once again conduct a three-day workshop for college, university, and high-school physics instructors. The event takes place on June 19–21, 2018 at the Vernier office in Beaverton, Oregon.

Active Learning in Introductory Physics Courses: Research-Based Strategies that Improve Student Learning—June 19–21, 2018, Beaverton, Oregon

Designed for instructors of introductory physics at universities, colleges, and high schools.

Instructors: David Sokoloff, University of Oregon and Ronald Thornton, Tufts University

This hands-on course is designed to make learning in introductory courses more active, using research-validated, classroom-tested strategies that have been shown to improve learning. Graduate credit will be available through the University of Oregon.*

Participants will be introduced to research-validated, classroom-tested strategies for each component of the introductory course. These include Interactive Lecture Demonstration (ILDs), RealTime Physics (RTP) labs, Collaborative Problem-Solving Tutorials, Workshop Physics (WP), Physics with Video Analysis (PVA), and related online video analysis exercises. The course will also include the use of video analysis to identify analytic functions describing real data. Some of the more recent developments are (1) 3rd ed. RTP E & M labs using video analysis, (2) ILDs using clickers, (3) online homework using Interactive Video Vignettes (IVVs), and (4) distance learning and in-class labs using the self-contained, wireless IOLab (or other wireless data acquisition devices). Topics will be chosen from both semesters of introductory physics. Research on the effectiveness of these strategies will also be discussed.

The tools and software used in these active learning curricula are compatible with Windows and macOS as well as with the popular interfaces and sensors. Participants will receive complimentary printed copies of the curricula (published by Wiley and Vernier, and also available for high school use as the ABP High School E-dition). Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite, a comprehensive book by E. F. Redish (University of Maryland) on strategies for implementing physics education research-based curricula, will also be distributed.

The course fee is $225. Early bird registration, until April 15, 2018, is $195. Because of the need to purchase and print materials, there will be no refunds of the course fee after May 15.

* Up to three graduate credits from the University of Oregon will be available for an additional $90/credit.

For more information and to register: http://pages.uoregon.edu/sokoloff/CHAUT.htm

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