Give a scientist a sensor…

(a reflection on hosting a pro-d event)

I recently hosted my first ever professional development event.  Usually, at the local level, there aren’t many opportunities for science types.  There just aren’t enough of us and we specialize so there isn’t much common talk beyond ‘how can we get the students to love and learn science more?’.  That is why I went out of comfort zone to host an event on sensors.  I’m still not an expert on my physics equipment from PASCO let along the sensors for the other branches but I thought it was worth the shot.

How do I do a pro-d event that engages the audience?  How could I hook the teachers in attendance?  The answer was easy.  Not for me to stand there and talk at them.  No!  They needed to do science!  They needed to use the sensors.  So, that’s what we did.

I set up several stations in my room.  One for physics, one for bio, one for chem and outside for earth science.  Each station required the use of an appropriate sensor (motion, CO2, pH and weather) and a task.  I gave them as little instruction as possible beyond how to use SPARKVue.  I wanted them to experience what their students would.

I expected only my department to show up.  That is still 13 people.  I had middle school and elementary teachers show up as well.  How would they do?  The hours flew by.  I didn’t need to worry about filling the time; we needed more.  There was a buzz that you don’t hear at staff meetings.  They were engaged.  They were loving it.  They were hooked on sensors.

What I loved most was the talk on how they could use it for their classes.  I wanted to get their ideas because they would know better than I.  Every teacher left with an idea on how the sensors could be used…if only we had more.
When the day was over I was asked to host more of these.  It was very easy to say yes.

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We are preparing for our 2019 Catalogue mailing. This years catalogue includes many new and exciting traditional physics solutions along with some great innovations in PASCO’s wireless range.

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To sign-up, please complete this form.

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The View From a Small Town Physics Classroom

Let me paint you a picture. Not something physicists normally do but I’ll give it a shot.

I teach in a small town in BC. For most of my career it has been lower on the social-economic scale, a true blue-collar place but things are changing. More and more people are being pushed out of the big cities due to high house prices and ending up here where life is more laid back, more affordable, more idyllic?

Again, for most of my career the supplies I have had access to are the same supplies that came with the school when it was built…back in the 1950s. Trying to modernize my lab has been a challenge but just like the city, things are changing.

I’ve used PASCO products since my university days and have always found them to be intuitive and practical. When I had the chance, I purchased some of their GLX data loggers for demo purposes. I started to show the students the power of probeware and they yearned for more. Yes, I used yearn to describe students. I know, almost unheard of.

When I procured the funding to buy a class set of the GLXs after buying one a year for 5 years I was ecstatic. I called PASCO to order and was told that they were discontinued. I was bummed. What now? They told me about their new product, the Spark LX as a tablet data logger. I was intrigued. Many discussions happened, and I started to get on board. PASCO even took some of my suggestions about what I thought the logger should entail. After months of waiting they finally arrived; just in time for the start of a new school year.

I happily got to setting them all up and preparing their first interactions with the devices. I would use the Match-Graph software to give my physics students some hands-on real life to graph interactions. After a few hiccups of the airlinks needing firmware updates which my school computer wouldn’t allow I had the students head out into the school to test out the Spark and the software.

The looks we got from the other students and staff started as bewilderment. “What is his class up to now?” was heard more than once. My students didn’t even hear. They were too engaged to notice. The beginner graphs which were too hard mere seconds ago were now too easy. Harder graphs please. Harder and harder they went and the more competitive they got. “I’m addicted to this!” one student exclaimed. “I get it now.” Yelled another. They were hooked at first use.

I can’t wait to see how the next experiment goes. This is how technology should work in class. Relating physical experience to life experience to learning.

____
Glenn Grant has been teaching physics, math and science for 20 years in a small town called Mission, BC. 
“For most of my career I’ve been using equipment from the 1960s. I was the first person in my district to start using a Smart Board and then started getting into sensors about 10 years ago.  Since then I’ve cobbled together whatever I can to give my students access to something from the current century.  I believe that technology has a place in the classroom as a tool to further the learning.  Using the new PASCO equipment we can do labs 100 times a class and the discussion becomes more in-depth.  Why did they choose the data set they are using?  What makes that data “better”?  Can you replicate the graph on the board using the equipment.  It allows for more actual science than just content memorization. As I deepen my understanding of the equipment and its uses, I’ve been teaching the other members of my department and other teachers in the district.  I’m not an expert yet but I’m working on it.”

Stoked About Stoich

Originally posted on PASCO Scientific’s Blog – August 2, 2018

Stoichiometry – No Limits to Limiting Reactants

If there’s one thing virtually all chemistry teachers can agree on, it’s that stoichiometry is a difficult topic for students. A problem can involve writing chemical formulas, balancing equations, then multistep calculations converting amounts from grams to moles and back again. Just writing those sentences helps me understand why students struggle! On top of all of this, we also ask our students to identify limiting reactants and determine percent yield for an experiment.

There are a number of tools and methods teachers employ to get students through this tough topic, including flow charts, algorithms, the Before Change After (BCA) approach, and physical models to reach students. We even use analogies of bikes, cookies or hamburgers to make limiting reactants relatable.

 

Hands-on inquiry can be another practical and tangible tool. A simple experiment using household chemicals, a bottle (or flask) with a stopper and tubing, and a Wireless Pressure Sensor can give students the opportunity to easily change the amount of one reactant while quickly measuring the amount of product to see the limits of the limiting reactant.

In this experiment from our Essential Chemistry Laboratory Investigations book, students perform multiple trials, keeping the amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate – NaHCO3) constant while increasing the amount of citric acid (C6H8O7). To keep the procedure simple, dissolve sodium bicarbonate in water to make a 0.12 M solution. Don’t worry if you haven’t covered molarity yet – let the students know that for 1000 mL of solution, there are 10.24 g of NaHCO3. Then, when they use 40 mL of sodium bicarbonate solution for each trial, they can practice proportional reasoning to determine that there are 0.41 grams of sodium bicarbonate are in each sample.

They should mass 0.10 grams of citric acid after they add 40mL of NaHCO3 solution to the reaction vessel. After connecting the Wireless Pressure Sensor to SPARKvue and opening lab 8D in the Essential Chemistry folder, students can start data collection. Once they establish a baseline pressure they should add the citric acid and quickly stopper the bottle. Make sure one student in the group is firmly holding the stopper in place while swirling the bottle during data collection.

 

Once the reaction is complete, it’s time to analyze the data!

The change in pressure is based on the gas produced during the reaction.

Next, it’s time to repeat the experiment, but with 0.20 g of citric acid. If you ask the students to predict what will happen to the pressure most will (correctly) assume that the change in pressure will double since they have twice as much reactant. They can do the same with 0.30 g of citric acid.

Something funny starts to happen when 0.40 g of sodium bicarbonate is added. The change in pressure is not four times the 0.1 g sample. And when 0.50 grams of sodium bicarbonate is added, it is the same change as 0.40 g. How can this be?

They can graphically analyze this discrepant event this by plotting the change in pressure vs the mass of sodium bicarbonate and viewing all of 5 of the data runs.

Some students will realize that the later trials did not produce proportionally higher changes in pressure because there was not enough sodium bicarbonate to react with all of the citric acid. This is a great observation and the key to understanding limiting reactants. They have made the connection that something will run out and stop the reaction!

Based on the graphs, the third trial is closest to an ideal ratio of reactants. In trials 4 and 5, there is not a proportional increase indicating that some of the citric acid did not react. To explain this, they need to dig deeper into the data and convert masses of reactants into moles.

Looking at the third trial, they have 0.41 grams of sodium bicarbonate, and 0.30 grams of citric acid. Using the molar masses of NaHCO3 and C6H8O7, they can calculate that there are 0.0049 moles and 0.0016 moles respectively. This is a 3:1 ratio.

To put all the pieces together, one more bit of information is needed– the balanced equation!

3NaHCO3(aq) + C6H8O7(s) → Na3C6H55O7(aq) + 3H2O(l) + 3CO2(g)

There’s the reason for the 3:1 ratio of moles of sodium bicarbonate and citric acid! Anytime the reaction has something other than a 3:1 ratio of the reactants, one of the reactants limits the production of gas. Now they can then look at each of the trials, identify which reactant is limiting, and provide evidence to support their claim!

This simple experiment with household chemicals gives student the experience and data to understand the limits of a limiting reactant, how the limiting reactant can change based on the amounts of substances, and why simply adding more of a reactant does not always lead to more product. Armed with these understandings, there will be no limit to their success!

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Titrations are pHun

Properties of acids, bases and the pH scale are core concepts in any chemistry class. After your students understand the basics, it is important for them to be able to quantify reactions involving acids and bases with a titration.

A classic experiment is to determine the concentration of HCl(aq) by reacting it with 0.1 M NaOH(aq). To quantify this titration, and to make it more pHun, I used an indicator and a Wireless pH Sensor.

The volume of labware usually used for a titration can cause students to react with hesitation about the lab, so to keep the focus on the concepts, I minimize the amount of equipment. For a mini-titration station, I lighten the cognitive load by having students measure volumes in drops— no funnels, burets or volumetric glassware needed.

Titration1

In the setup above, I added 60 drops (~2 mL) of an unknown concentration of acid to a beaker on a magnetic stirrer. Then I used the Electrode Support to suspend a Wireless pH Sensor in the beaker with enough water to make sure the pH electrode is covered. Finally, I added a few drops of bromthymol blue indicator. I fired up SPARKvue and set up a table to manually collect pH measurements and the volume of NaOH.

Now, it was time to drop the bass base. I slowly added 0.1 M NaOH until the pH changed by 0.5 units (up to 13.0 units), recording the total drops of NaOH along the way.

Titration2

After only a few minutes, your student will have a constructed a pH titration curve with real measurements with no treble trouble. This data looks good to the last drop!

Students will be surprised at a couple of things. The number of drops needed to change the pH by 0.5 units is not always they same, and the shape of the titration curve is not a straight line, as many would have predicted.

Titration3

They will also have noticed that the indicator in the solution changed color, from yellow to blue, and there was a big jump in the pH with only 1 drop of NaOH.

So, what’s the point of all this data? In this case there is an exact point they are looking for— the equivalence point.

Titration4

When the 60 drops of HCl were neutralized by 52 drops of 0.1 M NaOH — indicated by the color change and large jump in pH from below 7 to above 7— there were an equal number of moles of acid and base in the solution.

By incorporating the Wireless pH Sensor the students will not only perform a color-changing titration, they will also have an opportunity to engage in some science and engineering practices with their data. And of course have some pHun doing it!

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Analysez les tendances météorologiques et améliorez la compréhension des élèves

Bryan Ouellette est un éducateur, explorateur, et enthousiaste de technologie, qui est sans cesse à la recherche de stratégies pour permettre aux étudiants l’opportunité d’apprendre d’une façon plus personnel. Avec plus de 10 ans d’expérience dans la salle de classe, dans des positions de conseilleur pour le district scolaire, ainsi qu’avec la participation dans divers comités provinciales, Bryan est engagé à transformer la classe d’école dans un environnement où l’apprentissage vient

Wireless Weather Sensor Webinar – April 25, 2018 Hosted by Bryan Ouellette

Bryan Ouellette is an Educator, Explorer and overall technology Enthusiast who enjoys discovering strategies that allow students the opportunity to investigate various concepts through personalized learning. With over a decade of classroom experience, District Lead Positions and Provincial Committees, Bryan is committed to transforming classrooms into an environment where learning happens willingly.

Bryan takes a look at the new PASCO Wireless Weather Sensor, how it works and how it can be used in classrooms. This journey will not only take you from the windy parts of the prolonged winter in New Brunswick, but also to depths of the abilities that this new PASCO Weather Sensor can provide.

The Wireless Weather Sensor with GPS is an all-in-one instrument for monitoring environmental conditions. A built-in anemometer as well as sensing elements for temperature, humidity, pressure, light, and GPS the sensor provides up to 17 different measurements that can be used individually or simultaneously. Use the sensor in logging mode with the optional Weather Vane Accessory for long-term monitoring, or use it as a hand-held instrument to study microclimates and record ambient conditions relevant to many biological and environmental phenomena. Conduct GIS/mapping experiments using the onboard GPS sensor in conjunction with any of the other available measurements. The new map display in PASCO’s SPARKvue software provides a way for students to analyze spatial data.

 

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  • A big thanks for all the help and support you provided – I want to take some time to say a big thanks for all the help and support you provided me to select the best equipment in order to make the best possible use of the funds available. It is really exceptional that you happily connected with me multiple times even during the weekend and was always motivated to help. Please accept my big thanks for this.

    Gurpreet Sidhu | Physics Instructor | University College of North | The Pas, MB

  • Wireless Spectrometer Big Hit With Students – PASCO’s wireless spectrometer has been utilized very well by our earth science and physical science teachers. It’s an excellent piece of equipment and we have very much enjoyed its addition to enriching our classroom. It definitely brings students to a higher level of understanding wave interaction at a molecular level.

    Matt Tumbach | Secondary Instructional Technology Leader | Tommy Douglas Collegiate | Saskatoon, SK

  • Excellent Smart Cart – I thought the cart was excellent. The quick sampling rate for force will be very useful for momentum and collision labs we do. I’m recommending we include this in our order for next school year.

    Reed Jeffrey | Science Department Head | Upper Canada College | Toronto ON

  • Your lab equipment is of the highest quality and technical support is always there to help. During the 25 years we have used a wide array of lab equipment including computer interfacing. Your Pasco line has a high profile in our lab and will continue to do so far into the future.

    Bob Chin | Lab Technician | Kwantlen Polytechnic University | Surrey, BC

  • Datalogging Activities are Cross-Curricular

    Throughout the province of Nova Scotia, PASCO’s probeware technology has been merged with the rollout of the new P-6 curriculum. We chose a number of sensors for use with our project-based activities. Both the functionality and mobility of PASCO’s dataloggers enable students to collect authentic, real-world data, test their hypotheses and build knowledge.

    What we find important to a successful implementation and adoption by teachers is showing that the probes are not a ‘standalone technology’. The datalogging activities are very cross-curricular and can incorporate math, english, science, and geography outcomes.

    We are excited to learn more about PASCO’s new weather sensor because our students enjoy projects where they can share and compare their data with weather stations from around the world and be part of a global community.

    Mark Richards | Technology Integration Consultant | Annapolis Valley R.S.B. | Nova Scotia

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