By Janey Camp, Vanderbilt Engineering Faculty Member and Education Outreach Chair for the Nashville Branch ASCE
On March 3, 2018, the Nashville Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) hosted its 10th Music City Bridge Competition with 54 bridges submitted for qualifications testing and 38 bridges tested to failure. The competition is open to any and all high school students in Middle Tennessee and serves as a qualifying competition for the Illinois Institute of Technology’s International Bridge Building Contest. Winners of the Music City Bridge Competition are based upon a calculated efficiency of how much mass the bridge holds divided by the mass of the bridge.
For the past two years students have used the Vernier Structures & Materials Tester (VSMT) to test their bridges. The VSMT allows students to test bridges faster and easily display the results of bridge performance
Students arrived at the competition with their bass wood bridges completely constructed, and the bridges were checked to see if they qualified to be tested. In the past, testing was conducted by a team of volunteers who helped position a large pan under the loading platform that was then attached to the bridge. Students would add small concrete weights to the pan until the bridge shattered.
Now, with the VSMT, students can see when the bridge fails without necessarily destroying the bridge by gradually loading the bridge using the loading wheel at the bottom of the tester. The LabQuest 2 interface and Logger Pro software allowed for calculating the efficiency quickly and accurately, as opposed to manually counting and totaling the concrete weights. The students seem to really enjoy being able to watch the results in real time on the screens projecting the Logger Pro output; comparing when and at what load each others’ bridge broke.
Thanks to Vernier for their support of the Nashville Branch’s bridge competition!
This year’s winners were:
1st place to Nancy Hoang, Overton High School, Nashville, TN
2nd place to Bryan Galvan, Overton High School, Nashville, TN
3rd place to Kalei Hair and Maria Aguire, Portland High School, Portland, TN
This is the second year the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA) and Vernier Software & Technology have co-sponsored the Vernier Emerging Science Education Leader Scholarship (VESELS). This partnership grants a $500 scholarship to six emerging science leaders to attend the annual NSELA Summer Leadership Institute (SLI). This year, the SLI was held in Philadelphia in July.
The scholarship program was specifically designed to recognize emerging leaders at the school, district, state or informal level who have been in their role for three years or less. Applicants submitted a resume or vita, a support letter from a supervisor, and a personal letter illustrating evidence of their own emerging leadership.
In addition to the scholarship, awardees get the opportunity to work with an NSELA mentor to help them apply what they learned during the institute to their classroom.
This year’s winners are:
Alyssa Mocharnuk, Science Department Head at Foxborough Public Schools in Foxborough, MA
Amy Hochschild, 6th Grade Science Teacher at Berkshire Local Schools in Burton, OH
Brianna Greco, Science & ESL Teacher at Omaha Public Schools in Omaha, NE
Jennifer Gibson, 5th Grade Science Teacher at Midway Independent School District in Waco, TX
Katrina Reno, Instruction Coach at Moss Point School District in Moss Point, MS
Dylann Pinkman, Middle School Science Liaison and Teacher at Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, NE
When it comes to bringing data collection to the classroom, knowing where to start can be tricky. The team at Vernier Software & Technology compiled a list of our favorite experiments from our lab books—from elementary school science to college-level experiments—to point you in the right direction.
In this experiment, students study the effect of increasing the concentration of an ionic compound on conductivity. During the experiment, students use a Conductivity Probe or Go Direct® Conductivity Probe to measure the conductivity of solutions, investigate the relationship between the conductivity and concentration of a solution, and investigate the conductivity of solutions resulting from compounds that dissociate to produce different numbers of ions. A video demonstrating how to conduct this experiment is available here.
In this experiment, students titrate a hydrochloric acid solution with a sodium hydroxide solution using a Go Direct® Drop Counter in the process. They then use a pH sensor to monitor changes in pH as the sodium hydroxide solution is added to a hydrochloric acid solution and plot a graph of pH vs. volume. Students then use the graph to determine the equivalence point of the titration and use these results to calculate the concentration of the hydrochloric acid solution. A short video demonstrating how to conduct an acid base titration using Vernier technology is available here.
Using either a Low-g Accelerometer or Go Direct® Acceleration Sensor, students measure the centripetal acceleration on a record turntable. They also determine the relationship between centripetal acceleration, radius, and angular velocity, as well as determine the direction of centripetal acceleration.
Using a EKG Sensor or Go Direct® EKG Sensor, this experiment enables students to graph their heart’s electrical activity, determine the time interval between EKG events, and calculate heart rate based on their EKG recording.
Students build their own functioning wind turbine with Vernier Energy Sensor and a KidWind by Vernier experiment kit. During the experiment, students explore how wind turbines turn, predict variables that affect how fast a wind turbine turns, and investigate the effect of fan speed on the power output of a wind turbine. This video provides an overview of the activity using a Go Direct® Energy Sensor.
While these are some of our favorite experiments from our lab books, we love hearing about new, innovative lessons and projects using Vernier technology. If you are planning something cool for this school year, let us know at email@example.com
In addition, with new tablet versions now available, Graphical Analysis has the same core feature set and appearance on Windows®, macOS®, ChromeOS™, Android™, and iOS. You can have a mixed set of devices in a classroom, and everyone can do a full spectrum of experiments, regardless of device. Procedures learned on one platform work everywhere. Files saved on one device can be opened on another, even if it is a different platform. Because device screen sizes vary widely, there is now an option to increase the size of text and other labels so that graphs are more readable on large screens.
Support for Graphical Analysis for physics is included in the 4th edition of Physics with Vernier, which has versions of activities written for students using Graphical Analysis on any platform. Experiments written for Graphical Analysis are also included with the 4th editions of Chemistry with Vernier and Biology with Vernier.
Our largest software development team is working on Graphical Analysis 4. New versions are released every few months, so keep looking for new features and tools. We have great plans for the rest of the school year to keep instructors and students in all disciplines engaged in doing science. This most recent push emphasized features of particular use to physics students. Prior releases have focused on chemistry and biology. If you have not tried Graphical Analysis recently, we think you’ll find that it has grown to be a useful tool for the most common experiments in these fields and more.
Graphical Analysis 4 works with our Go Direct sensors on all platforms and with most of our wired LabQuest sensors. As a result, making the jump from computer to Chromebook has become much easier. Best of all, Graphical Analysis 4 is free.
Whether you are teaching general or upper-level college chemistry courses, our affordable sensors and instrumentation make it possible for every student to participate in hands-on learning. Our combination of sensors, software, college-level experiments, and instructional resources engage students and instructors in scientific discovery. We have assembled a collection of products and experiments for commonly taught college chemistry courses.
General Chemistry: Complete an acid-base titration with our pH probes that have 0.1 pH unit accuracy and a drop counter that accurately converts drops to volume.
Organic Chemistry: Measure and analyze the GC retention times of a Fischer esterification reaction mixture using the Mini GC Plus Gas Chromatograph with room air as the carrier gas.
Biochemistry: The Vernier UV-VIS Spectrophotometer can be used to measure the 260/280 nm ratio when purifying proteins and DNA. Its range, 220 nm to 850 nm and 3 nm optical resolution, makes it ideal for biological applications.
You don’t have to spend much time on education websites, blogs, or social media before you run into the term coding. Why is coding, or computer programming, getting so much attention right now? Coding engages students in new ways, providing practical applications for math and science skills.
The act of coding—an iterative process of building, testing, and refining a program—parallels the scientific method in many respects. Students must construct detailed models, plan carefully, anticipate sources of error, analyze data, and document their work. Additionally, many programming projects require the application of specific science knowledge, such as understanding the motion of a uniformly accelerating object, in order to successfully accomplish a task.
Vernier offers a number of resources to support coding in the classroom:
Programmable robots, such as mBot and Ranger from Makeblock®, are a great, hands-on way to introduce coding to students because robots take abstract code from the screen and translate it into actions in the real world. The newest member of the Makeblock family of robots is Codey Rocky, perfect for elementary- and middle-school students who are new to coding. Codey Rocky is actually two electronic modules: Codey, a detachable controller that includes 10 sensors and an LED matrix, and Rocky, a mobile base that can carry Codey across the classroom. Codey Rocky does not require any construction and can be programmed through a free app on computers, tablets, or smartphones.
If you’ve been tasked with leading an after-school robotics club, are thinking about incorporating some coding into your science class, or even been asked to teach computer science, see what Vernier has to offer.
John Wheeler, our CEO, first worked for Vernier as a consultant. For his first project he designed a photogate timing device, for which we paid him with one Macintosh computer. In 1993, he became a full-time employee, when we had fewer than 10 employees. John handled our parts purchasing, but he also continued to design products. Over the years, John has designed the Serial Box Interface, the LabPro interface, LabQuest, LabQuest 2, and most of our sensors. In 2015, he took on the overall leadership role at Vernier.
“It has been a fantastic experience growing up with this remarkable company,” John explains. “The world was certainly different when I started with Vernier—there was no such thing as social media or reality television. The internet was largely navigated using dial-up modems, cryptic command-line instructions, and specific utility apps. It was a super small company back then, and I was the purchasing, receiving, and engineering department in those days.”
“While we have grown significantly since then, the amazing thing is that we have been able to grow and keep our company culture. David and Christine Vernier started something really special and have nurtured it for 37 years to get to where we are now. We have kept our company values, and we continue to serve educators and impact student learning. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of the work we do here and to work alongside such wonderful people. I am lucky to have been a part of this amazing journey for so long, and I look forward to the coming great things that we will accomplish.”
Jessie Diggins, who won a gold medal in the recent Winter Olympics, allowed Pivot Interactives to use the medal in a version of the Archimedes experiment. A new activity challenges students to identify the real gold medal from an inexpensive copy and to determine if an Olympic gold medal is actually made of gold. Give it a try here.
You already know that Go Direct sensors are the most versatile sensors around—they can be used via USB or Bluetooth® wireless technology on Chromebooks™, computers, iOS®, and Android™ devices. But did you know that they can now be used with LabQuest 2?
“After reviewing the Go Direct® Respiration Belt, we found that its user-friendly data-collection capabilities have many practical uses both in and outside of the classroom. Moreover, the included rechargeable battery is reliable and offers long battery life for experiments.”
He concluded by saying:
“The Go Direct® Respiration Belt is reasonably priced and connects directly to mobile devices. Without doubt, we found it to be a great tool for science and mathematics students to become active and motivated learners. Hence, the Go Direct® Respiration Belt is highly recommended for classroom use!”
The complete Go Direct family of sensors offers teachers and students the versatility to collect scientific data both wirelessly or via a USB connection. These sensors can be used in more than 300 teacher-tested experiments developed by Vernier.