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An Adaptable Interactive Activity on Optics and Resolution

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Resource Exchange

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Mel White Cornell University

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Mel White is a PhD Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University, advised by Alyosha Molnar. Her research interests include novel sensors for computational imaging, optics, IC design, and signal processing.

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The concept of resolution, or space-bandwidth product, is more subtle and challenging than is often assumed. This activity aims to develop intuition for what factors create the resolution of an image, and allows for modifications to make it appropriate for a wide range of ages.

The activity takes 15-30 minutes. Materials required are a projector, a poster board with a 3”x3” grid of squares drawn on, and colored post-its. An image is projected on the poster board, and students place one post-it on each square to try to match the image as closely as possible. The projector is turned off once the squares are filled. After, the students are offered the opportunity to modify the activity based on age-appropriate guiding questions.

This activity was developed for and piloted in the Ithaca ScienCenter, and was designed to be scaled for elementary to middle school aged students. It was specifically designed to elicit and facilitate creative problem-solving and hypothesis generation and testing. Younger students will learn how digital images are made, and try different ways of making a picture. More advanced students will encounter a subversion of expectations with real-world implications – a 1MP and 10MP camera might actually have the same resolution, depending on other elements of the camera or system, like optics (the projector) or spatial frequency of pixels (post-its).

White, M. (2021, July), An Adaptable Interactive Activity on Optics and Resolution Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36663

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