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Re: [Phys-L] Inference Lab Design

If you find the video of Malcolm Wells in the modeling material you will see that he asks the students to find a way to make a cart move on a board with constant speed. It is a simple question, but leads to lots of ideas about motion. You might be able to expand it so that students have to write and discuss their ideas and inferences as they do the work.

On Aug 14, 2012, at 12:53 AM, Turner, Jacob wrote:

The box idea I am considering for inclusion in our second semester
physics labs (which include our E&M offerings and waves), but since the
class only spends about 6 hours on circuits, I am attempting to move
away from having circuits show up in the labs too much (up till now 9 of
the 13 labs were breadboard).

But the initial request was for first semester physics for non-calculus
students. So they will have just begun to cover the first and possibly
second chapters of any standard College Physics text (basic mechanics)
in class.

Jacob Turner - (208)885-2730
Director of Physics Laboratory Education
University of Idaho

-----Original Message-----
From: Phys-l [] On Behalf Of Bernard
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 9:39 PM
Cc: Dave Belanger
Subject: Re: [Phys-L] Inference Lab Design

At what level is the "induction" lab?

The example below is part of the intermediate lab at UCSC. It includes
a large variety of passive elements (and a 9V batt.), including the
below. They are given NO instruction except to determine what's in the
grey hammer tone boxes. Available include a 20? A regulated supply (for
the four terminal #14? wire), a Keithley electrometer for the 100? meg
R, very well matched X-Y o'scopes for the ac circuits and low freq. sig.
gens, etc. etc. Note well, the equipment is in cabinets. I instructed
the TAs to at no point to directly** tell the students what to use! Of
course once one student "found out" all may know, tho we also pointed
out greater learning would likely result if no telling. They did (do)
work in groups of two or three. If one wants the manual for that I may
be able to supply.

Note this lab was likely developed by the founding department
instructors. ca. 1965)

**i.e. Catechizing (Socratizing) is OK if the student is desperate.

bc reminds readers he's using 12 year old memory, and has incipient

p.s. extract from D. Belanger's syllabus (Spring 2012)

"Instructions for the experiments: Enough information is given to do the
experiments, but not everything is explained in complete detail. This is
by design. You should be learning how to do experiments, not just follow
instructions. If you run into trouble or have questions, your instructor
and teaching assistants will be happy to help. You can also research
points on your own and consult with your fellow students. These are all
natural routes for successful research."

On 2012, Aug 13, , at 13:03, Derek Chirnside wrote:

I like "whats in the box?" with record of steps I once tried a
plastic box with 4 exposed terminals and inside connected. Went well.
Used variations for several years.

The best combo:

AB = resistor
BC Wire
CD 1.5V cell
All others. Nothing.

Using a multimeter. Decide the circuit Set up table for a series of
What we did : What result? : conclusion
Draw the circuit
What is the minimum number of measurements to unambiguous determine
I once got the class to set it up and then did the exercise in front
of them.


Derek Chirnside - +64 21 511 303
Sent from mobile which may (or may not) explain typos and non

On 14/08/2012, at 7:33 AM, "Rauber, Joel" <Joel.Rauber@SDSTATE.EDU>


A simulation of science played with a deck of cards and is all about
making inferences.

|-----Original Message-----
|From: Phys-l [] On Behalf Of Turner,

|Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 2:21 PM
|Subject: [Phys-L] Inference Lab Design
|I've been banging my head on how to design a lab which will impart a

|sense of using inference. I intend this for our lower level
|(non-calculus) freshman labs, so should be fitting for AP High
|School physics range as well I imagine.
| General thoughts I have had are to place something in a box and
|have them tell me everything that they can about it without sight or

|direct physical contact. But framing this so they can determine a
|worthwhile quantity of information with minimal direction is a fine
| Another thought was to allow them to make actual measurements of
|something with proper tools (so they know the right value, as long
|as they did things right) then require that they obtain the same
|information by some quantity of other methods, choosing the precise
|number to force them to get creative. This runs the risk of failing

|to think of some easy approaches, so groups who think of those ones
|get off easy, and groups who fail to think of something easy which
|you thought to be obvious flounder helplessly trying to fill the
arbitrary number.
|Plus since it is a measure you already know... it just feels
|The primary obstacle is that this is intended for the first week in
|a first physics course for students who likely have many unfamiliar
|with any form of scientific thought. If I could use electronics, I
|have many more promising possibilities. But really I can only
|assume they know how to use a few basic
|tools: Balance, ruler, scale, graduated cylinders. And of course
|sight, sound, and tactile senses.
|Right now, I am giving it up as a nice ideal, but not practical.
|Anyone else have some ideas which can get students to think and
|start the semester out with some thought?
|Jacob Turner - (208)885-2730
|Director of Physics Laboratory Education
|University of Idaho
|Forum for Physics Educators
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Joseph J. Bellina, Jr. Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Northern Indiana Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Collaborative