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Evaluation Notes: 17 March 2005

Today our plan was to hold a discussion with the students about the variables of the balloon car and what effects their different values may have. Afterwards we intended to have the students use Swaroop's simulation software again, this time with the balloon car. After the software activity we wanted to have another discussion with the students about what they learned using the software.

We held the initial discussion as planned. Swaroop and I both thought it went well, continuing our tradition of feeling well about discussions. This time, however, nearly every student (~16 present) participated in the discussion, with maybe just 3-4 students not talking. I had drawn a picture of a balloon car on the board, and used it to help illustrate some of the key variables. I first asked the students to remind us of what they did 2 weeks ago. They were able to do so. Then we talked about which of the 3 engine types performed best and why. As I put up each suggestion I made sure to put question marks around it to show that we were not sure if the prediction / explanation offered was correct. After discussing the 3 variables we asked the students to think about other variables. Many different design features were mentioned, many of which we had not really anticipated (e.g. placing a plate behind the straw so the air hit it; other students were quick to point out that if the plate was attached to the car there would be no effect). Question marks were placed around each variable and explanation.

After this discussion Swaroop led the students through a demo of his software using the projector. He performed the first experiment on his laptop and asked the students to follow along. Insofar as we were able to maintain the students' attention and get them to stay with Swaroop this demo helped them to perform the tasks, I believe. We allowed the students some free time (~5 min) in explore mode, during which most groups tried to build a "super" car which would go off the track. Afterwards Swaroop led them through a demo again and then let the students go on their own.

As the students were experimenting I went around and asked them to fill out their design sheets as they went. We wanted the students to fill out design sheets which basically represented their design for the next session. On the sheet were rows for each critical variable and a space for filling out the value of it and the "why". By the end of the session most groups had filled out about 3 of the rows. Most groups did not complete all 4 experiments, and one student even asked if they could complete the experiments next session.

Our tentative plan for next session is to allow them to begin to build a standard balloon car, using SMILE and the handhelds. Then we will let them go on their own, doing as many iterations as they would like, as long as they fill out a design iteration and record results using the handhelds for each new design and as long as they only change 1 thing per new design. I think this will be difficult to enforce, as many groups enjoy tweaking their design in between individual trials, let alone in between different design iterations.

Last modified 17 March 2005 at 5:54 pm by Jason Williams