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Month: March 2020

Essential Physics & Essential Chemistry Access Codes

To support educators and students as they transition to remote learning during the COVID-19 school closures, we are granting free access to the Essential Physics 3rd Edition Student e-Book and Teacher e-Resources for the remainder of the 2020 school year. The Student e-Book includes a full year of curriculum that can be used for high school, AP, IB, and algebra-based courses.

To request your teacher access code please complete the form below.

Essential Physics & Essential Chemistry Teacher Guides

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Is Sound Just Vibrations?

When we consider what defines sound in a physics context, it can be tempting to assume sound is just vibrations. While partially true, sound is much more complex than simple vibrations. When a sound source vibrates, it produces sound energy that travels through particle disturbances in the medium, effectively transmitting the sound. As a sound wave moves through a medium, it creates high and low pressure differences called rarefactions and compressions. These differences are the result of particles within the medium shifting from their original states and causing other particles to compress or expand as a result. While a vibrating source creates sound energy, pressure differences make up the sound wave. Specific patterns of rarefactions and compressions are what give sounds their distinct characteristics, and ultimately, allow us to differentiate between noises, melodies, and other sounds. Looking for more information on sound? Visit our Sound Waves information guide for a more in-depth look at sound, or read our other sound blog posts, “What Type of Wave is Sound?

Who Discovered Spectroscopy?

Similar to many scientific concepts, spectroscopy developed as a result of the cumulative work of many scientists over many decades. Generally, Sir Isaac Newton is credited with the discovery of spectroscopy, but his work wouldn’t have been possible without the discoveries made by others before him. Newton’s optics experiments, which were conducted from 1666 to 1672, were built on foundations created by Athanasius Kircher (1646), Jan Marek Marci (1648), Robert Boyle (1664), and Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1665). In his theoretical explanation, “Optics,” Newton described prism experiments that split white light into colored components, which he named the “spectrum.” Newton’s prism experiments were pivotal in the discovery of spectroscopy, but the first spectrometer wasn’t created until 1802 when William Hyde Wollaston improved upon Newton’s model.

William Hyde Wollaston’s spectrometer included a lens that focused the Sun’s spectrum on a screen. He quickly noticed that the spectrum was missing sections of color. Even more troublesome, the gaps were inconsistent. Wollaston claimed these lines to be natural boundaries between the colors, but this hypothesis was later corrected by Joseph von Fraunhofer in 1815.

Joseph von Fraunhofer’s experiments replaced Newton’s prism with a diffraction grating to serve as the source of wavelength dispersion. Based on the theories of light interference developed by François Arago, Augustin-Jean Fresnel, and Thomas Young, Fraunhofer’s experiments featured an improved spectral resolution and demonstrated the effect of light passing through a single rectangular slit, two slits, and multiple, closely spaced slits. Fraunhofer’s experiments allowed him to quantify the dispersed wavelengths created by his diffraction grating. Today, the dark bands Fraunhofer observed and their specific wavelengths are still referred to as Fraunhofer lines.

Throughout the mid 1800’s, scientists began to make important connections between emission spectra and absorption and emission lines. Among these scientists were Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström, George Stokes, David Atler, and William Thomson (Kelvin). In the 1860’s, Bunsen and Kirchhoff discovered that Fraunhofer lines correspond to emission spectral lines observed in laboratory light sources. Using systematic observations and detailed spectral examinations, they became the first to establish links between chemical elements and their unique spectral patterns.

It took many decades and more than a dozen scientists for spectroscopy to be well understood, and most modern models weren’t developed until the 1900’s. Today, there are physicists, biologists, and chemists using spectroscopy in their day-to-day lives. For more information, visit our in-depth guide, What is Spectroscopy? or check out our other blog post, “What is the Difference Between Spectroscopy and Microscopy?”

PASCO’s 2020 Global Partner Meeting

Last week saw delegates from more than 40 different countries gather at PASCO’s head office in California to share success stories about how educators are using PASCO solutions to acheive their STEM goals. I was excited to see several new pieces of equipment including sensors for all sciences.

Wireless Sound Sensor (PS-3227)
This is a wireless Bluetooth sensor that connects to any device loaded with either Sparkvue or Capstone software. As is the case with other Pasco wireless sensors this sensor is more powerful than the older sensor it replaces. It can be used to measure sound levels in decibels as well as to show the waveform of a sound in addition to an FFT display to show the frequencies present.

In the recent past when I have worked with teachers to design a physics lab most of the sensor requirements can be filled by Pasco’s new line of wireless sensors, including the smart cart. I then recommend that they consider purchasing at least one 550 or 850 universal interface so that they can use the ScienceWorkshop sound sensor to study sound waves and FFT displays. In addition the built-in signal generator will allow them to generate sine waves over a large frequency range. The AC/DC module described below can carry out this signal generator function. Thus, purchasing the wireless sound sensor and the wireless AC/DC module much of the work formerly left to the 550 can now be accomplished by the less expensive wireless units.

Wireless AC/DC Module (EM-3533)
This wireless module connects via Bluetooth to any device loaded with Capstone or Sparkvue. It connects nicely with other modules in the modular electricity package giving teachers the choice of using this rather than purchasing batteries.

As shown in the video this unit can produce DC output as well as sine, triangle and square waves.

Blockly Coding
The most recent versions of Capstone and SPARKvue include the ability to carry out Blockly coding. This coding can be used to control connected sensors and to react to measurements that they are making. It introduces students to coding as they use sensors to explore various science topics. It exposes them to logic that they are likely to encounter later in life if they pursue science and/or technology and so it becomes an important part of the STEM experience we try to generate for our students.

To make it easier to introduce students to Blockly coding PASCO has developed the //code.Node (PS-3231). It includes the following built–in sensors: magnetic, motion, light, temperature, and sound.

Bill Konrad is a former Teacher and Science/Technology Consultant in South Western Ontario and currently supports AYVA’s customers as a PASCO Product Specialist. Details on how to reach Bill directly can be found here.

2020 Skills Sheridan Competition

Sheridan College (Davis Campus) conducted their 3rd annual Skills Competition on March 4th, 2020, a day dedicated to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the students from various programs within the Faculty of Applied Science and Technology. Previously, professors selected their top students to compete in the Skills Ontario competition but with Sheridan’s new Skills Trade Centre, a more engaging way to select the students was brought forward.

Participants choose one stream and put their skill and knowledge to the test while engaging in a friendly competition with their peers. Some of the various streams included electrical engineering, information technology, precision machining, computer engineering, media management, web design, and welding.


AYVA was proud to be a sponsor for this years’ event. It was an honour to be able to witness the extraordinary projects presented by the students.

At the end the competitions, students and sponsors were gathered together for the presentation of the awards.

First, second and third place medals (which are made by the skills trade facility!) are awarded to the students.

Congratulations to all the winners and participants in this year’s competition!

Demonstrating Projectile Motion

Projectiles is a major concept in every physics class, but finding a lab activity to demonstrate this concept can be quite difficult. I have tried a number of ideas in the past, such as rolling balls off tables, firing nerf guns (that seem to never shoot consistently), launcher-building competitions, and so many more. While these activities were okay, they were all limited in terms of measurable variables. The projectile problems I give my students often have some sort of initial “launch” velocity, proves to be the hardest thing to measure in a practical setting.

With the Wireless Smart Gate, this is no longer an issue. The Smart Gate will seamlessly measure the speed of any object that passes through it. Now when my students roll a ball off a table, the ball travels through a Smart Gate first giving them the speed at which the ball leaves the table. Before the Smart Gates, students would have to predict the speed of the ball based on the ball’s range, but they never had a value to compare their predictions with. The Smart Gate allowed for a comparison and when students compared their values, they were amazed at how a value calculated on paper translated into a real-world measurement.

Angled launches remained a stumbling block for me. Rolling a ball through a Smart Gate is easy but launching one through? Pasco has angled projectile launchers available to purchase, but I thought I would build my own to see how feasible it would be to have my students eventually build the same. I wanted a product that would launch a ball through the smart gate at various angles so that students could see how the launch angle and speed affects ball flight.

The following pictures are of the finished product. The ball is loaded in the top of the pvc pipe where it rests on a bolt. The bolt is attached to two springs so that when it is drawn back and released, the ball is launched. The video shows the launcher in action. You can see how, as the ball moves through the smart gate, the Smart Gate automatically records the velocity of the ball. The dual beam technology in the new Smart Gate allows for different sized balls to be used, as the velocity is based on the time difference between the two beams. The old photogates only had one beam and you had to calibrate the sensor to the specific size of the object moving through the beam.

Being able to instantly measure the velocity of a projectile before it flies through the air is extremely valuable in the application of this concept. While there are things I would do differently in the construction of the launchers, students were able to see how the different velocities and angles affect the range of the projectile. Once again, students predictions matched measured values closely and they were again amazed at the ability to see this difficult concept in action.

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