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Can Hot Wheels Change the Way We Teach STEM?

Education Next – Morgan S. Polikoff

“Curriculum and standards are key research topics for Morgan Polikoff, a University of Southern California professor and FutureEd senior fellow. So when Mattel’s philanthropic arm approached him and his research partners about developing curriculum to teach science standards using Mattel’s Hot Wheels cars and tracks, they were in. The researchers developed a hands-on curriculum and professional development lessons teaching basic physics using the popular toys, then conducted a randomized controlled trial in about 60 fourth-grade classrooms in a California school district comparing student learning under the project-based and traditional textbook based instruction over three weeks. FutureEd recently talked with Polikoff about the project, known as Speedometry.”(more)

Ask 4 Questions to Choose an AP Physics Class

The U.S. News and World Report – Brian Witte

“Students considering an Advanced Placement course in physics have four options to choose from: AP Physics 1, AP Physics 2, AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism and AP Physics C: Mechanics. Each end-of-year exam – and potential college credit – corresponds to an AP class, but students may not know how to select the appropriate course and test. AP Physics 1, which is algebra-based, covers Newtonian mechanics, as well as the basics of circuits and mechanical waves. AP Physics 2, which is also algebra-based, continues with electricity and magnetism, fluids, optics and thermodynamics. Both classes and exams emphasize logic and reasoning with an overall goal of students understanding the core concepts of physics, although doing well requires basic algebra.”(more)

Why you should include simulations in your STEM lessons

E-School News – Bree Barnett Dreyfuss

“During my first year of teaching, a mentor teacher showed me interactive PhET simulations, and it changed my curriculum forever. To be honest, I was blown away by their versatility. Since then, I have implemented the use of many simulations in my Physics, Conceptual Physics, and Physical Science classes. Here are six different ways that I use simulations in my classroom.”(more)

Was Albert Einstein really a bad student who failed math?

The Washington Post – Valerie Strauss

“There is huge news in the science world: Scientists just announced that they have detected gravitational waves from the merging of two black holes in deep space — something predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. The finding serves to underscore — again — the prodigious genius of Einstein, a theoretical physicist whose work fundamentally changed the way humans view and understand their world…There are also commonly held aspects of his childhood and education that seem to conflict with the broad genius that he was. That he was a lazy child. That he was a bad student who flunked math. That he had a learning disability. How much of this is true?”(more)

Innovation and creativity: Australia needs an innovation ‘skunkworks’

The Conversation- Marcus Foth from Queensland University of Technology

“Malcolm Turnbull has been heralded as the new “innovation PM”. Expectations are high that he must now translate his rhetoric around agility, disruption, entrepreneurship into concrete economic policies.Both Glenn Withers, Professor of Economics at Australian National University, and myself have argued that we need not just STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), but also researchers from the social sciences, arts, design and the humanities contributing to innovation.Several commentators have called for better support of innovation, such as Mark Dodgson, Director, Technology and Innovation Management Centre, The University of Queensland, Tony Peacock, Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centres Association, Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and Jenny Stewart, Professor of Public Policy, UNSW Australia.”(more)

Rube Goldberg machines teach students physics

The Denver Post – Ann Butler

“Families of freshmen at Animas High School have found it difficult to make breakfast during the last month or so. The students borrowed coffee makers, toasters, waffle irons, pancake griddles and even cereal and milk to create their Rube Goldberg machines — a complex and creative way to achieve simple tasks. The project was part of teacher Brian Morgan’s physics and earth sciences class. To make their machines, they used springs, gears, pulleys, wheels, dominoes, ramps, levers, mousetraps, funnels, ball bearings, marbles, golf balls and parts from games, not to mention duct tape, lots of duct tape. But the lesson wasn’t the task; it was a hands-on way to see how different physics principles work. “We learned about acceleration, force and transference,” said Emma Poitras, who, with partners Sierra DesPlanques and Ella Brown, created a 14-step toaster process. Their machine included a cellphone set to vibrate that kicked off the steps by pushing a ball bearing down a tube. “We also learned construction skills,” Emma said. “I didn’t even know what a drill bit was, and we used an electric saw, too.” The complexity of the machines reduced the effectiveness of the task completion. Some teams said their machines failed completely. Emma, Ella and Sierra’s machine managed to toast four slices of bread.”(more)