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ERIC Number: EJ1057005
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Apr
Pages: 5
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
The Maiden Voyage of a Kinematics Robot
Greenwolfe, Matthew L.
Physics Teacher, v53 n4 p205-209 Apr 2015
In a Montessori preschool classroom, students work independently on tasks that absorb their attention in part because the apparatus are carefully designed to make mistakes directly observable and limit exploration to one aspect or dimension. Control of error inheres in the apparatus itself, so that teacher intervention can be minimal. Inspired by this example, I created a robotic kinematics apparatus that also shapes the inquiry experience. Students program the robot by drawing kinematic graphs on a computer and then observe its motion. Exploration is at once limited to constant velocity and constant acceleration motion, yet open to complex multi-segment examples difficult to achieve in the lab in other ways. The robot precisely and reliably produces the motion described by the students' graphs, so that the apparatus itself provides immediate visual feedback about whether their understanding is correct as they are free to explore within the hard-coded limits. In particular, the kinematic robot enables hands-on study of multi-segment constant velocity situations, which lays a far stronger foundation for the study of accelerated motion. When correction is anonymous--just between one group of lab partners and their robot--students using the kinematic robot tend to flow right back to work because they view the correction as an integral part of the inquiry learning process. By contrast, when correction occurs by the teacher and/or in public (e.g., returning a graded assignment or pointing out student misconceptions during class), students all too often treat the event as the endpoint to inquiry. Furthermore, quantitative evidence shows a large gain from pre-test to post-test scores using the Test of Understanding Graphs in Kinematics (TUG-K).
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Preschool Education; Early Childhood Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A