Physics Education Research and Development Group

Computerizing Problem-Solving Physics Labs:

At the University of Minnesota, we are always interested in improving the education of our physics students receive. In the late 1990's we implemented a computerized version of our problem-solving labs as part of a NSF-ILI grant (#9651339) and with support from the University of Minnesota. This was the subject of Laura McCullough's Ph.D. thesis in 2000: "The effect of introducing computers into an introductory physics problem-solving laboratory", which can be downloaded from here.

Programs for data acquisition and analysis are written in LabVIEWTM from National Instruments and are designed to reinforce the pedagogy of problem-solving labs. To read more about the rationale for the software, go to the Frequently Asked Questions page. The software was also the subject of an AAPT talk in 2007. Updated versions of the programs may be available upon request. Contact the group for more information.

Description of programs used in the introductory laboratories:

Practice FIT:
  • Practice equation analysis (fit a function to the graph displayed)
  • First exercise in mechanics labs
  • Matches data analysis format used in VideoTOOL
Screen Shot

Practice FIT screenshot. Now a part of "MotionLab".

  • simple format video display and acquisition
  • records a video at 30 frames/second, 5 seconds long
  • creates a file with AVI format
  • works with Firewire IEEE 1394 video camera
  • Allows the user to step through a video frame by frame
Screen Shot

VideoRecorder screenshot. Updated to include minimal camera controls.

Video TOOL:
  • Load and view a video (any AVI file with 30 fps and no dropped frames)
  • calibrate using an object length in the video
  • predict x and y position and x and y velocity
  • acquire data manually by stepping through video frames and placing the cursor on a moving object
  • analyze data (select a function and change coefficients to fit data)
  • export data to a spreadsheet, e-mail, or text file
Screen Shot

VideoTool screenshot. Now a part of "MotionLab".

  • Used with Vernier Magnetic Field Sensor and LabPro interface
  • Predict, measure, and analyze magnetic field strength over a distance
Screen Shot

Hall probe screenshot. Magnetic vs. position

Faraday PROBE:
  • Mimics an oscilloscope
  • Allows the measurement of the magnitude and period of an induced magnetic field
  • Used with the Vernier Magnetic Field Sensor and Differential Amplifier
  • Predict, measure, and analyze magnetic flux


Screen Shot

Faraday PROBE screenshot. Mimics an oscilliscope.

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  • Last modified on October 15, 2012