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Computational Thinking in Physics

Mr. Monacelli's physics classes conducted experiments on January 7, 2020 to determine which of two materials had greater frictional effect.


The friction experiment involved moving spherical robots across the floor, with and without a plastic cover on the robots, and measuring distance as well as time.  Four values were required for each set of circumstances.


Perhaps it would surprise you to hear that the experiments also involved programming the spherical robots?





The 11th graders loaded a program onto their smartphones and sent signals to the robots, controlling their movements.  If the robots did not move in a straight line a certain distance, students adjusted parameters by dragging and dropping blocks which represent lines of code.  On their own initiative, the students figured out how to program different musical sounds and lights for each of their robots!




This is one example of how Ursuline students get exposure to basic computer programming even if they are not in one of our Computer Science classes. We believe in the importance of each student developing computational thinking: a method of reasoning that teaches students how to solve real-world, complex problems with strategies that computers use.  This includes breaking down complex problems into smaller, simpler problems, then making connections between similar problems and experience.


Following the experiments, students calculated the initial velocity, acceleration, and net force of their spherical robots to determine mass with and without the cover.  From this material, the young physicists determined which scenario had greater frictional effect.





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