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ERIC Number: EJ1165800
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018-Jan
Pages: 4
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Math Machines: Using Actuators in Physics Classes
Thomas, Frederick J.; Chaney, Robert A.; Gruesbeck, Marta
Physics Teacher, v56 n1 p49-52 Jan 2018
Probeware (sensors combined with data-analysis software) is a well-established part of physics education. In engineering and technology, sensors are frequently paired with actuators--motors, heaters, buzzers, valves, color displays, medical dosing systems, and other devices that are activated by electrical signals to produce intentional physical change. This article describes how a 20-year project aimed at better integration of the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) uses brief actuator activities in physics instruction. Math Machines "actionware" includes software and hardware that convert virtually any free-form, time-dependent algebraic function into the dynamic actions of a stepper motor, servo motor, or RGB (red, green, blue) color mixer. With wheels and a platform, the stepper motor becomes LACI, a programmable vehicle. Adding a low-power laser module turns the servo motor into a programmable Pointer. Adding a gear and platform can transform the Pointer into an earthquake simulator.
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 - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A