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On the move with graphs, sonars and students


Describing an object's speed and location with words is open to interpretation. Using real data with graphs is faster and more precise. 

Students in Accelerated Physics at Pius X High School are putting that notion to work. They are learning to use data to describe what is happening in the graph: is an object moving, in what direction, how quickly, and so forth.  

The goal, according to teacher Jeremy Scheffler: "Being able to take a long, complicated description of how an object is moving in words, and show it on a graph in a way that's faster to visualize and interpret." 

Scheffler has had his students doing the various steps over time: collecting the data, plotting it, then graphing it by connecting the key points. 

At the beginning of this class, students are asked to graph physical movements: an object moves forward at a steady pace, then speeds up, then stops moving. 

While all that is important to learn, this class activity combines several steps. 

Using a sonar-based sensor and live graphing software, students create graphs by walking forwards and backwards. The sensor is actually using reflected sound to measure distance.  

The software makes a time graph on the computer in real time, down to the fraction of a section. When an object – or in this case the student – moves away from the sensor it shows a negative result, and vice versa. 

In a future class period, students will look at the graph and attempt to repeat the actions needed to make a copy of it 

"We've been using motion vs. time graphs to describe motion, this will be their chance to see it being made while they are moving instead of while it's being made," Scheffler said. 

Pius X • 6000 A St. • Lincoln, NE 68510 • 402-488-0931 • Fax: 402-488-1061

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