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A Physics Laboratory Activity to Simulate the Operation of the Touchscreen on a Smartphone

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics II

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.87.1 - 25.87.11



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Paper Authors


Gary P. Hillebrand University of Detroit Mercy

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College of Engineering and Science

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Meghann Norah Murray University of Detroit Mercy

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Meghann Murray has a position and conducts research in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at University of Detroit Mercy. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from UDM and is certified to teach high school chemistry and physics. She has taught in programs such as the Detroit Area Pre-college and Engineering program. She has been a judge and mentor with the Science and Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit, FIRST Lego League, and FRC Robotics. She is currently the Chair of the Younger Chemists Committee and Treasurer of the Detroit Local Section of the American Chemical Society.

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Jenna Ross

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Robert A. Ross University of Detroit Mercy

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Cherron Tarter Ford Motor Company

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A Physics Laboratory Activity to Simulate the Operation of the Touchscreen on a SmartphoneWe use cell phones as a context to teach important concepts in introductory physics. Ouractivities are based on an innovative hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum.1 We have modifiedthe curriculum to incorporate additional activities. This paper will describe a physics laboratoryexperiment to simulate the operation of the touchscreen on a smartphone.A detailed description of the activity will be provided. The simulator is fabricated usingcommon office and laboratory supplies and is inexpensive enough that students can keep themodel. We describe how the simulator is used in two different courses. One course is designedfor high school students attending a university enrichment program, the other is a second-semester undergraduate general physics laboratory course.In addition we present the results of an open-ended assessment of student learning. Students areengaged to write to a specific prompt and we assess the writing in a pre- and post-activity format.The results of the assessment indicate that the experiment helps students understand how thetouchscreen on a smartphone functions.1 Teaching the Fundamentals of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications. M. Davids, R.Forrest, and D. Pata, Physics Teacher, 48, 217-221 (2010).

Hillebrand, G. P., & Murray, M. N., & Ross, J., & Ross, R. A., & Tarter, C. (2012, June), A Physics Laboratory Activity to Simulate the Operation of the Touchscreen on a Smartphone Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20847

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