Saturday, February 06, 2021

RT;DL A Pithy Matter

Sure, there's some kind of force involved in the rubbed plastic/pith ball interactions. But do we really need to consider it a whole new force? Isn't it just some form of gravity or magnetism? Let's experiment.

This qualitative exploration of electrostatics features: electrostatic attraction and repulsion, a triboelectric sequence (but we don't use the T-word here), an electrophorus (with pronunciation guidance), and two rounds of Pith Ball Ping Pong. What's not to like?

Let me just add that nothing—nothing—turned my most jaded, been-there-done-that high school seniors into elementary students more than this activity. When the pith balls started flying, their giddy glee was an involuntary reaction that expressed itself before they could so much as attempt to stifle it.

A Pithy Matter - Student Document (Google Docs copy link)

A Pithy Matter - Observations (HTML export as linked within the GoogleDocs document). This is a sequence of video clips showing interactions between cloth-rubbed plastic and pith balls, with special appearances by an electrophorus (ft. slow-motion electrophorus ping). Here's the movie export of the observations for use on devices that struggle with the HTML export—link also included in gdoc).

A Pithy Mattrer - Special Observations (HTML export for use by the instructor). They will seem silly to experts with content knowledge, but they are actually critical for the purpose of this activity.

This activity was designed for use with video conferencing (e.g., Zoom). Students need to check in with the instructor to see the "Special Observations". It's a redesign of what was an in-class lab. I consider it a mark of success that I am able to use the same lab quiz (ported to Socrative for online use, of course) to assess student performance on the activity. 

The roughest edge for students in this activity is recognizing that the brick is far and away the "most gravitational" object in the apparatus and how it can be used in this lab. The instructions make an attempt to steer, but still... Once they get past that, most groups catch on to the value of the bar magnet. Most; not all. 

To the best of my knowledge, this activity is not duplicated or even simulated elsewhere in teh interwebz. No Pivots; no PhETs. I will be corrected in the comments if I am mistaken.

In Distance Learning, I'm everyone's lab partner in addition to being the instructor.

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