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Utilizing Pen-Based Wireless Devices in Physics Classrooms

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Physics or Engineering Physics I

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1658.1 - 22.1658.8



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Paper Authors


Sudipa Mitra-Kirtley Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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I am a professor in Physics and Optical Engineering depart at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. I have been teaching for the past 17 years.

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Rana Mitra Southeastern Louisiana University


Maarij M Syed Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Maarij Syed got his Ph.D. at University of Notre Dame in 1998. He joined the department of Physics & Optical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 1998 and has been there since. His pedagogical interests include studio teaching and curricular development in the area of nano technology. His research interests are in the area of magneto-optics and semiconductor optics.

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Utilizing pen-based wireless devices in physics classroomsIntroductory physics for undergraduates often involve traditional laboratory experiments,where the students are required to follow a set of guidelines from a manual, and work withreal-world models in a contained classroom. As a result, students who take these classes as arequirement fail to realize the practical applications of physics, and consequently fail to retainmuch of the basic concepts.Wireless technology has been introduced at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for severalyears now, and introductory physics classes often use the pen-based wireless tablets to gatherexperimental data anywhere around the campus. With this technology, students can ignore theclassroom and laboratory boundaries, and try the physics theories in a real-world setting. Afew examples are given in the following paragraphs.The concept of centripetal acceleration is often not understood properly, and students oftenconfuse the pseudo centrifugal force as being an actual reality force from their experience inautomobiles. In the Physics I class, the students use an accelerometer and run around thegymnasium track at a constant pace to monitor the centripetal acceleration. They collect thedata, and then load the data on individual wireless tablets to analyze them on the spot.Students have been found to get excited with the confirmation of experimental data with thetheory. They have a better understanding of inertia, and why that fact may lead them to,erroneously, believe in the existence of centrifugal force.Another example is based on the polarization concept of Malus Law. Students take thepolarized light data outside of the building, and verify the cosine square dependence on thepolarization angle. Again, a few simple gadgets such as a polarizer, a sensor, and a tablet PCare all that are needed for this experiment.The advantage of the wireless technology is immense. On top of that, a special softwarepackage called DyKnow has been used in a number of physics classes where the students canannotate the professor’s notes, without spending valuable class time copying them. Insteadthat get to concentrate effectively on the material taught, and ask questions, anonymously ifthey so choose. The prospects of the weaker students participating in class discussionsbecome promising. Paperless quiz is also an attractive feature with this software.All in all, wireless technology to realize the real-world applications of physics principles, andasking questions without inhibitions have made many non-physics major students to enjoyintroductory physics. In the presentation several new methodologies along these lines will bediscussed and several new ideas for future implementation will be mentioned. Assessmentresults via pre-and post-concept inventory tests between classes who do and do not use thesemethodologies will also be discussed.

Mitra-Kirtley, S., & Mitra, R., & Syed, M. M. (2011, June), Utilizing Pen-Based Wireless Devices in Physics Classrooms Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18920

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