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The Tarzan Swing For Learning Physics

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.481.1 - 1.481.11

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Paper Authors

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Karl P. Trout

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Charles A. Gaston

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

I Session 3280

The “Tarzan Swing” for Learning Physics

Charles A. Gaston, Karl P. Trout Penn State - York


Visualize a freshman physics class in which students, working in small groups, are intensely calculating and discussing the solution to a difficult problem involving geometry, trigonometry and parabolic trajectories. Finally one team is ready to check its collective solution to the problem. When their calculations prove correct, they break out in cheers and high-fives.

This actually happens.

Why does this scenario of enthusiastic learning seem to run counter to most people’s perceptions of a “normal” classroom? We certainly don’t claim to have all the answers to that question, but we do have a few ideas we’d like to share.


In 1994 a proposal for “A Partnership for Excellence in Engineering Technology Education” resulted in a grant from the National Science Foundation - Advanced Technological Education program. The “Partnership” involves several Penn State campuses (with the York campus the focus), the York city high school, the York County vocational-technical school, several York area industries, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The goal of this project is to improve technology education. The mechanism is to develop interesting, team-based, hands-on educational modules that can be incorporated into existing courses. The focus is on associate degree programs in Engineering Technology, but a major thrust also goes toward secondary school programs that might lead into associate degrees, and many of the modules could apply as well to four-year engineering and technology programs.

Four independent teams began late in 1994 to develop the modules that were the de] iverable items for this grant. Theoretically, each team could have representation from seven different viewpoints: both faculty and students from the university, the high school and the vo-tech school, plus industry. All seven viewpoints have been involved, but no single team has included all seven. The teams developed somewhat spontaneous y out of large brainstorming sessions, and each headed off independently with its own significant y different objectives, ideas and philosophies. One of those teams intended to focus on basic physics and math skills, and quickly chose the “Tarzan Swing” as the vehicle for its first module.

$iii’1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings } ‘..+,~yy’.’

Trout, K. P., & Gaston, C. A. (1996, June), The Tarzan Swing For Learning Physics Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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