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Physics on the Ropes Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.965.1 - 23.965.22



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Paper Authors


Elizabeth Ann Holden University of Wisconsin, Platteville

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Elizabeth Holden is a lecturer in the Engineering Physics department at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She received her M.S. in Physics in 2006 from Northern Illinois University. Holden is interested in physics education and issues pertaining to women in STEM. She lives in Madison, Wisc with her boyfriend and two retired racing greyhounds.

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Kristina M Fields University of Wisconsin, Platteville

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Dr. Kristina Fields is a civil engineering professor focusing her coursework on transportation, construction, and computer applications of civil and environmental engineering. She is active in pre-college engineering outreach and improving non-motorized transportation infrastructure.

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Physics on the Ropes Course K-12 and Precollege Engineering Division, Works in Progress Category or Curriculum Exchange CategoryThere is still a large gender gap in engineering and physics. Our university runs a multi-yearengineering outreach program for girls in an effort to counter that gap. Girls in grades 7-8, 9-10,and 11-12-12 come in age appropriate groups to the university for one weekend per year (as partof a multi-year STEM outreach program) and participate in a variety of activities intended toboth introduce them to engineering and physics concepts and to generate excitement and interestin STEM. Physics is important for all future engineering students, and learning through activityand motion brings a real-world exposure to the concepts.As part of the weekend's curriculum, I have developed a program to teach a variety of physicalconcepts through the use of a two part hand’s on ropes course activity: the first being a physicalhigh ropes course and the second being an in-classroom physics discussion which uses datacollected during the physical ropes course. The physics projects and data collected are differentfor different age groups, so girls can go through the program in multiple, consecutive years andnever repeat an activity.On the ropes course, students collect altitude and acceleration data by wearing a VernierWireless Data Sensor System as they swing from a giant pendulum, called a Giant Swing andclimb rope ladders. Students are also digitally videotaped and this video is uploaded along withthe Vernier data to assist them in understanding their physics concepts (e.g. horizontal andvertical position, acceleration, etc.). This Vernier data and digital video is then used in theclassroom portion of the program covering concepts such as energy conservation, periodicmotion, and velocity and acceleration.In post-weekend surveys given to the attendees, most indicate that the program has given them adeeper understanding of STEM fields. 100% of them agree that people in engineering or physicswork with others to solve problems, and that someone who studies engineering would have manypossible careers. In the physics analysis of the ropes course, students’ work showed that theyused their experience on the course to reinforce and make sense of the physical concepts wediscussed during the physics session.This paper/poster will detail this physics ropes course curriculum, discuss the implementation ofthe program, its results, and how to modify it for use in a variety of physics outreach andclassroom situations.

Holden, E. A., & Fields, K. M. (2013, June), Physics on the Ropes Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22350

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