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?”

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.

PASCO Scientific Joins the Google for Education Integrated Solutions Initiative

Jan 7th, 2020 — Roseville, CA
PASCO Scientific Joins the Google for Education Integrated Solutions Initiative

Roseville, Calif., Jan. 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — PASCO Scientific announced today that it has joined the Google for Education Integrated Solutions Initiative. This collaboration integrates PASCO solutions with Google products to improve the efficiency of classroom experimentation and science learning.

PASCO Scientific has collaborated with Google throughout the development process to deliver users a fluid experience. “Teachers and students have been using SPARKvue to collect and analyze data on their Chromebooks and Android devices for years. Partnering with Google feels like a natural step forward in our mission to provide educators with a centralized solution for teaching science. We plan to continue improving global access to science education and data literacy alongside Google,” said Richard Briscoe, President and CEO of PASCO Scientific.

The Google for Education Integrated Solutions Initiative features education apps and tools optimized for integration with Chrome OS, Google Classroom, or G Suite for Education. PASCO’s more than 55 years of experience in science education has made them a well-known leader in STEM education and an ideal partner for the advancement of powerful teaching and learning solutions.

The first set of integrations with Google’s offerings include the ability to connect PASCO sensors to the Google Science Journal app on Android, export data directly to Google Sheets on Android, and easily share lab resources from PASCO.com through Google Classroom.

The partnership extends accessibility to educators by providing them with an affordable and compatible sensor solution. Science Journal app users will now enjoy the same plug-and-play sensor experience as SPARKvue users when using PASCO wireless sensors. A new “Share to Classroom” button exports digital experiments from the PASCO Experiment Library to courses setup in Google Classroom. This feature enables educators to export any of PASCO’s free experiments to their entire class with a single click.

Briscoe is confident in the partnership’s potential saying, “At PASCO, we are excited to be partnering with Google in our mission to promote accessible science learning and data literacy. We are consistently striving to provide educators with innovative teaching solutions that improve the efficiency of their classroom. Hundreds of thousands of learners around the world use Google Science Journal. By enabling PASCO sensors to work with Google Science Journal, we are expanding educators’ tools and helping students engage with science learning.”

For more information about the integration of PASCO solutions into Google products, please visit www.pasco.com/resources/google.

2020 PASCO Physics Catalogue

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Blockly Coding with PASCO Capstone and SPARKvue

Confidently Integrate Computational Thinking into Any Lesson with Blockly

Introducing students to coding and computer-controlled outcomes is easier than ever before with Blockly coding. Included in SPARKvue 4 and Capstone 2, Blockly offers students a new world of experimental opportunities that focus on computational thinking and data visualization. Blockly’s visual coding environment is intuitively designed to facilitate the success of new coders, while strengthening the skills of more advanced learners.

Blockly’s colored coding blocks provide students with a visual method for developing strong coding foundations. The user-friendly design allows students to simply drag and connect coding blocks that correlate with syntactically correct coding elements such as variables, commands, and loops.

Blockly within SPARKvue and Capstone is compatible with all PASCO sensors and interfaces. When students combine PASCO sensors with Blockly, they are empowered to design and execute their very own sensor experiments. Students can create code that collects sensor measurements, reports data, or controls output devices such as the Smart Fan Accessory. As they execute their code, students can visualize their data using real-time graphical displays that assist with data visualization.

Real-World Coding Activities: Computational Thinking Meets Data Literacy

The integration of Blockly into SPARKvue and Capstone gives students unparalleled control over their experiments. While developing their code, students can press the Record button at any time to execute it and receive live feedback. Students can instantly monitor sensor measurements through live graphs and digits displays that support debugging throughout their code creation process. Once students have successfully coded their sensor parameters, they can collect data in real time, store it, and use it to inform future experiments.

With an unlimited amount of coding combinations, Blockly allows students to customize and create experimental designs, determine data outputs, and use those outputs to inform future decisions. Through the integration of coding and sensor-based technology, both SPARKvue and Capstone provide a platform for the exploration of phenomena through computational thinking and data visualization.

Sample Programming Activities


Entry Level Programming with the Wireless pH Sensor

The Wireless pH Sensor is the perfect tool for introducing young learners to pH and simple programming. In this activity, students use their knowledge of the pH scale and a Wireless pH Sensor to create code that runs along with their data collection. Using a simple set of coding blocks, students can instruct the sensor to identify a sample solution as neutral, basic, or acidic. As their code is executed, live data displays communicate the code’s effect in real time. A text display will correctly identify a solution’s pH. This simple activity gently introduces students to basic programming concepts, sensor measurement, and the pH scale to instill a foundational sense of confidence and understanding in STEM.

SPARKvue Blockly Code
Instruct the sensor to identify a sample solution as neutral, basic, or acidic.
SPARKvue Blockly Code
A live data display communicates the code’s effect in real time.

Entry Level Programming with the Wireless Temperature Sensor

For introductory lessons, students can learn to program a temperature display and a simple text output. The goal of this activity is for students to create a program that gives instructions to cool a liquid to below 15°C. Students can monitor their live temperature reading and a text output that is temperature-dependent. In this example, the text output reads “Add more ice!” when the water temperature is above 15°C, and “Great work!!” when the water temperature is less than or equal to 15°C. The Wireless Temperature Sensor should be placed in a cup containing room temperature water. Once students have developed their Blockly code, they can execute it using the Record button. Add the ice gradually to reduce the water temperature. A successful program will display a live temperature reading and the correct text when the temperature shifts above and below 15°C.

Capstone Blockly Code
In this example, the text output reads “Add more ice!” when the water temperature is above 15°C.
Capstone Blockly Code
In this example, the text output reads “Great work!!” when the water temperature is less than or equal to 15°C.

Advanced Level Programming: Thrust with Blockly and the Smart Fan Accessory

The patented Smart Fan Accessory adds versatility to any dynamics experiment. It features numerous control features when plugged into a Smart Cart. Students can control the fan’s thrust and direction from their devices. They can also set start and stop conditions that power the fan on or off when a particular measurement, such as position, reaches a set value. Students can easily determine a parameter and immediately observe its impact on the experimental outcome, which is a powerful component of active learning.

Students can control the fan’s thrust by programming calculations based on sensor measurements. In this example, a student commands the fan to maintain a thrust of -100*[Position]. This makes the fan blow harder as the cart moves down the track, causing the cart to reverse. When the fan senses a determined measurement, the student’s code is executed, producing a physical change in the experiment and altering data collection. Students can test their code’s effectiveness, make corrections, obtain live data, and complete graphical analysis before exporting their lab for grading. This user-friendly platform is an intuitive and time-efficient method for introducing students to computational thinking without straying from standards.

Smart Fan Configuration Menu
Control the fan’s thrust and direction from their devices.
Capstone Blockly Code
Control the fan’s thrust by programming calculations based on sensor measurements.

Data and Analysis

  • Organize and present collected data visually to highlight relationships and support a claim.
  • Use data to highlight or propose cause-and-effect relationships, predict outcomes, or communicate an idea.
  • Represent data using multiple encoding schemes.
  • Collect data using computational tools and transform the data to make it more useful and reliable.
  • Refine computational models based on the data they have generated.

Algorithms and Programming

  • Compare and refine multiple algorithms for the same task and determine which is the most appropriate.
  • Create programs that use variables to store and modify data.
  • Create programs that include sequences, events, loops, and conditionals.
  • Use an iterative process to plan the development of a program by including other perspectives and considering user preferences.
  • Test and debug (identify and fix errors) a program or algorithm to ensure it runs as intended.
  • Use flowcharts and/or pseudocode to address complex problems as algorithms.
  • Create clearly named variables that represent different data types and perform operations on their values.
  • Design and iteratively develop programs that combine control structure, including nested loops and compound conditionals.
  • Decompose problems and subproblems into parts to facilitate the design, implementation, and review of programs.

Computing Systems

  • Design projects that combine hardware and software components to collect and exchange data.

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

  • Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.
  • Define a simple design problem that can be solved by applying scientific ideas about magnets.
  • Ask questions to determine cause and effect relationships of electric or magnetic interactions between two objects not in contact with each other.
  • Conduct an investigation and evaluate the experimental design to provide evidence that fields exist between objects exerting forces on each other even though the objects are not in contact.

Energy

  • Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

  • Generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.
  • Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.

Engineering Design

  • Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

 

Confidently Integrate Computational Thinking into Any Lesson with Blockly

Introducing students to coding and computer-controlled outcomes is easier than ever before with Blockly coding. Included in SPARKvue 4 and Capstone 2, Blockly offers students a new world of experimental opportunities that focus on computational thinking and data visualization. Blockly’s visual coding environment is intuitively designed to facilitate the success of new coders, while strengthening the skills of more advanced learners.

Blockly’s colored coding blocks provide students with a visual method for developing strong coding foundations. The user-friendly design allows students to simply drag and connect coding blocks that correlate with syntactically correct coding elements such as variables, commands, and loops.

Blockly within SPARKvue and Capstone is compatible with all PASCO sensors and interfaces. When students combine PASCO sensors with Blockly, they are empowered to design and execute their very own sensor experiments. Students can create code that collects sensor measurements, reports data, or controls output devices such as the Smart Fan Accessory. As they execute their code, students can visualize their data using real-time graphical displays that assist with data visualization.

Real-World Coding Activities: Computational Thinking Meets Data Literacy

The integration of Blockly into SPARKvue and Capstone gives students unparalleled control over their experiments. While developing their code, students can press the Record button at any time to execute it and receive live feedback. Students can instantly monitor sensor measurements through live graphs and digits displays that support debugging throughout their code creation process. Once students have successfully coded their sensor parameters, they can collect data in real time, store it, and use it to inform future experiments.

With an unlimited amount of coding combinations, Blockly allows students to customize and create experimental designs, determine data outputs, and use those outputs to inform future decisions. Through the integration of coding and sensor-based technology, both SPARKvue and Capstone provide a platform for the exploration of phenomena through computational thinking and data visualization.

Sample Programming Activities


Entry Level Programming with the Wireless pH Sensor

The Wireless pH Sensor is the perfect tool for introducing young learners to pH and simple programming. In this activity, students use their knowledge of the pH scale and a Wireless pH Sensor to create code that runs along with their data collection. Using a simple set of coding blocks, students can instruct the sensor to identify a sample solution as neutral, basic, or acidic. As their code is executed, live data displays communicate the code’s effect in real time. A text display will correctly identify a solution’s pH. This simple activity gently introduces students to basic programming concepts, sensor measurement, and the pH scale to instill a foundational sense of confidence and understanding in STEM.

SPARKvue Blockly Code
Instruct the sensor to identify a sample solution as neutral, basic, or acidic.
SPARKvue Blockly Code
A live data display communicates the code’s effect in real time.

Entry Level Programming with the Wireless Temperature Sensor

For introductory lessons, students can learn to program a temperature display and a simple text output. The goal of this activity is for students to create a program that gives instructions to cool a liquid to below 15°C. Students can monitor their live temperature reading and a text output that is temperature-dependent. In this example, the text output reads “Add more ice!” when the water temperature is above 15°C, and “Great work!!” when the water temperature is less than or equal to 15°C. The Wireless Temperature Sensor should be placed in a cup containing room temperature water. Once students have developed their Blockly code, they can execute it using the Record button. Add the ice gradually to reduce the water temperature. A successful program will display a live temperature reading and the correct text when the temperature shifts above and below 15°C.

Capstone Blockly Code
In this example, the text output reads “Add more ice!” when the water temperature is above 15°C.
Capstone Blockly Code
In this example, the text output reads “Great work!!” when the water temperature is less than or equal to 15°C.

Advanced Level Programming: Thrust with Blockly and the Smart Fan Accessory

The patented Smart Fan Accessory adds versatility to any dynamics experiment. It features numerous control features when plugged into a Smart Cart. Students can control the fan’s thrust and direction from their devices. They can also set start and stop conditions that power the fan on or off when a particular measurement, such as position, reaches a set value. Students can easily determine a parameter and immediately observe its impact on the experimental outcome, which is a powerful component of active learning.

Students can control the fan’s thrust by programming calculations based on sensor measurements. In this example, a student commands the fan to maintain a thrust of -100*[Position]. This makes the fan blow harder as the cart moves down the track, causing the cart to reverse. When the fan senses a determined measurement, the student’s code is executed, producing a physical change in the experiment and altering data collection. Students can test their code’s effectiveness, make corrections, obtain live data, and complete graphical analysis before exporting their lab for grading. This user-friendly platform is an intuitive and time-efficient method for introducing students to computational thinking without straying from standards.

Smart Fan Configuration Menu
Control the fan’s thrust and direction from their devices.
Capstone Blockly Code
Control the fan’s thrust by programming calculations based on sensor measurements.

Blockly is Compatible with All PASCO Sensors & Interfaces

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Standards Alignment


ISTE Standard: Computational Thinker (all ages)

  • 5a Students formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions.
  • 5b Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.
  • 5c Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
  • 5d Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

ISTE Standards Grades 3-5 (ages 8-11)

Data and Analysis

  • 1B-DA-06 Organize and present collected data visually to highlight relationships and support a claim.
  • 1B-DA-07 Use data to highlight or propose cause-and-effect relationships, predict outcomes, or communicate an idea.

Algorithms and Programming

  • 1B-AP-08 Compare and refine multiple algorithms for the same task and determine which is the most appropriate.
  • 1B-AP-09 Create programs that use variables to store and modify data.
  • 1B-AP-10 Create programs that include sequences, events, loops, and conditionals.
  • 1B-AP-13 Use an iterative process to plan the development of a program by including other perspectives and considering user preferences.
  • 1B-AP-15 Test and debug (identify and fix errors) a program or algorithm to ensure it runs as intended.

ISTE Standards Grades 6-8 (ages 11-14)

Computing Systems

  • 2-CS-02 Design projects that combine hardware and software components to collect and exchange data.

Data and Analysis

  • 2-DA-07 Represent data using multiple encoding schemes.
  • 2-DA-08 Collect data using computational tools and transform the data to make it more useful and reliable.
  • 2-DA-09 Refine computational models based on the data they have generated.

Algorithms and Programming

  • 2-AP-10 Use flowcharts and/or pseudocode to address complex problems as algorithms.
  • 2-AP-11 Create clearly named variables that represent different data types and perform operations on their values.
  • 2-AP-12 Design and iteratively develop programs that combine control structure, including nested loops and compound conditionals.
  • 2-AP-13 Decompose problems and subproblems into parts to facilitate the design, implementation, and review of programs.

NGSS Alignment (Grades 3-5)

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

  • 3-PS2-1 Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.
  • 3-PS2-4 Define a simple design problem that can be solved by applying scientific ideas about magnets.

Energy

  • 4-PS3-2 Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

  • 4-PS4-3 Generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.

Engineering Design

  • 3-5-ETS1-2 Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 3-5-ETS1-3 Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

NGSS Alignment (Grades 6-8)

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

  • MS-PS2-3 Ask questions to determine cause and effect relationships of electric or magnetic interactions between two objects not in contact with each other.
  • MS-PS2-5 Conduct an investigation and evaluate the experimental design to provide evidence that fields exist between objects exerting forces on each other even though the objects are not in contact.

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

  • MS-PS4-3 Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.

Engineering Design

  • MS-ETS1-3 Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • MS-ETS1-4 Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Transpiration with a Potometer

Transpiration with a Potometer

Transpiration is an important concept in both biology and environmental science, especially in terms of the role it plays in the water cycle. As water evaporates from the stoma of leaves water is pulled up (due to hydrogen bonding) through the xylem from the roots which have drawn the water from the surrounding soil.

Because transpiration is essentially an invisible process, a potometer is used to measure the rate of water lost to the air. The advantages that sensor technology makes in many investigations in biology and environmental science are that it allows students to see the data in real-time while greatly improving the accuracy and significantly decreasing the time needed to capture data.

Setting up a classic potometer with a Wireless Pressure Sensor is one example of how integrating sensors can improve the data collection process. With the included Leur connectors and tubing, all you need is a plant sample and optional stand with clamps to complete the lab. Students can choose from any plants available, but three general guidelines help ensure success. Students should choose a plant with

  • a woody stem/branch that will fit snuggly into the tubing, making it less prone to crushing and easier to setup.
  • relatively soft cuticle leaves because they generally have higher rates of transpiration and good stomatal density.
  • high leaf surface area (either large leaves or lots of leaflets) per stem/branch.

Insert the plant stem into the tubing as shown, making sure there are no bubbles in the tubing and that you have a few centimeters of air between the sensor and water. This can take a few tries to get right, and having a sink or tub to submerse the tubing in will help. The cohesion and adhesion of the water along with a slight positive pressure created when connecting the sensor will keep water out of the sensor even if a stand is not available.

Potometer 1
Figure 1. Potometer Setup with Wireless Pressure Sensor

Data collection usually takes 5-10 minutes depending on the plant. For the control run (taken at room temp with ambient light) wait for a change of at least 5.0 kPa before stopping data collection. After the control run is complete, find the rate of transpiration in kPa/min using the curve fit tool and save this into a data table. Save the plants from each trial so the surface area can be calculated and the trial data normalized for comparison.

Potometer 2
Figure 2. Sample data from control run at room temperature with ambient lighting.

Calculating surface area (SA) can be done using the tried and true method with graph paper, but if you have cameras and computers available students can also use ImageJ— a free image analysis tool from the National Institute of Health. This is a powerful software and the basics are pretty easy to master. The steps for conducting area and size calculations in ImageJ can be found in this blog article or on this video. Although not part of the PASCO software suite, this is another tool that eliminates some repetitive work from the procedure and let students focus on the data and analysis that support learning.

Potometer 3
Figure 3. ImageJ program analyzing leaf SA from control trial.

When the SA is determined, add it to the data table in SPARKvue. A simple calculation provides the adjusted rate in kPa/Min/cm2. In subsequent trials, students can investigate the impact of environmental variables such as light intensity, humidity, temperature, and wind— or they can compare different species of plants.

Potometer 4
Figure 4. Data analysis table with control and windy trial data.

You can download the sample data with the table formatted and calculations created. After students go through the procedure once they can easily iterate this setup to conduct their inquiry— where the true learning transpires!

Download the Transpiration with a Potometer SPARKlab.

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Using the PASCO Smart Cart to Teach the Right-Hand Rule

We high school physics teachers tend to associate the right-hand rules with electromagnetism. As a student, my first encounter with a right-hand rule was when I was introduced to the magnetic field produced by the electric current in a long, straight wire: if you point the thumb of your right hand in the direction of the conventional current and imagine grasping the wire with your hand, your fingers wrap around the wire in a way that is analogous to the magnetic field that circulates around the wire.

I only later discovered that this same rule can be applied to rotational quantities such as angular velocity and angular momentum. The topic of rotation has become more important in AP physics when the program was updated from the older Physics B program. Strictly speaking, AP Physics 1 does not include the use of the right hand rule for rotation, but I have found that introducing it actually helps solidify student understanding of angular vectors.

Describing the direction of rotation as being clockwise or counterclockwise is helpful only if all parties involved have a common point of view, which is ideally along the axis of rotation. As with left and right, clockwise and counterclockwise depend on your point of view. This is why it is often preferable to describe translational motion in terms of north, south, east, west, up, and down, or with respect to a defined x-y-z coordinate system; directions can be communicated unambiguously, provided that everybody uses the same coordinate system.

It is precisely for this reason that the right hand rule can (and should) be used for rotational motion. Consider the hands of an analog clock. Assuming that the clock is a typical one, it will have hands that turn “clockwise” when viewed from the “usual” point of view, but if the clock had a transparent back and you were to view it from the back you would see the hands turning “counterclockwise!” The observed direction of rotation (clockwise or counterclockwise) depends on the observer’s point of view.

Instead of using clockwise and counterclockwise, we can describe the direction of rotation with a right hand rule: if you curl the fingers of your right hand around with the direction of the rotational motion, your thumb will point in the direction of rotation, which will be along the axis of rotation. Applying this to the above we find that when viewing a clock from the front, the rotation of the hands is three dimensionally into the clock (away from the observer), and when viewing a clock from the back side, the rotation of the hands is three dimensionally out of the clock (toward the observer). If two people view a transparent clock at the same time but one observes it from the front while the other observes it from the back (i.e. the clock is between the two people who are facing each other), they will disagree on which way the hands turn (clockwise or counterclockwise) but will agree on this direction if both use the right hand rule convention to describe the direction of the rotational motion – both observers will agree that it is directed toward the person viewing the back side of the clock.

When first learning about the right hand rule, students are often initially confused, with many students failing to grasp why such a rule is even useful in the first place. Before introducing the right hand rule I like to begin by holding an object such as a meter stick while standing at the front of the classroom. I then rotate the meter stick through its center so that the students claim that it is rotating “clockwise” when asked. Being careful to keep the rotational motion as constant as possible, I then walk to the back of the room. It’s important that the students see that at no point did I stop the rotation of the meter stick – it is still turning the same way as before, and yet at some point each student finds that they must turn around in order to continue to see it. Many students are astonished to see that the meter stick is now rotating counter clockwise from their (now reversed) point of view. This helps establish the need for a better way to describe rotation.

I then introduce the right hand rule and go through a couple of examples. Traditionally, this would have been the end of it, but last year I was able to take advantage of my newly acquired PASCO Smart Cart, which has a wireless 3-axis gyroscope (i.e. rotational sensor). The coordinate system is fixed with respect to the cart, and is printed on the cart itself, but I like to make this more visible by attaching cardboard cutout vectors onto the cart which make the axes more visible to the students while I hold the cart up for them to see. I then set up a projected display of the angular velocity of the cart along each axis simultaneously. I then ask the students how I must turn the cart in order to get a desired rotation of my choosing (i.e. ±x, ±y, and ±z).

I really like how the carts, along with the live display of the 3 angular velocity components make the admittedly abstract right hand rule so much more concrete. Seeing the display agree with our predictions makes it so much more real and is much, much better than me merely saying “trust me.” I have found that introducing and using this right hand rule with rotation has made using this same rule much more natural when using it to later relate the direction of current flow and the magnetic field.

Independent Datalogging

In logging mode, wireless sensors collect data to their onboard memory for hours, days, weeks or even months at a time without needing to be connected to a computer, tablet, Chromebook or smartphone.

When the experiment concludes, simply connect the sensor to a device running PASCO software and download all the measurements it recorded.

How much does a windshield screen affect the temperature inside a car on a hot day? Using Wireless Temperature Sensors in logging mode makes it easy to find out.

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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

  • We have a large number of PASCO wireless spectrometers and love how they have improved the learning experience for our students.

    Shawn McFadden | Technical Specialist | Ryerson University | Toronto, Ontario

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