2009 Advanced Laboratories Conference Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Can Students Design Their Own Experiments?
Abstract: Advanced labs, like introductory labs, are often fairly cookbook, instructing students step by step what to do. This is justified in part by students' lack of familiarity with the more complex equipment used in many advanced experiments. Do students, through practice with a variety of advanced experiments, learn how an experiment should be designed and run? Or does a steady diet of labs with detailed instructions preclude the critical thinking needed to design an experiment? We attempted to answer these questions by asking students in the third quarter of a junior-level lab to design and run - with no help or assistance from the instructors - an experiment requiring no knowledge of new equipment. Given a diode laser that could be pulse modulated, a pulse generator, a photodiode, several mirrors, and an oscilloscope, students were asked to devise an experiment to measure the speed of light in air and then, after an explanation that the speed of light is actually a defined quantity, to use the defined value to measure the distance between two marks on the table. How did they do? I'll report on the rather dismal outcomes.
Abstract Type: Poster
Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster
Session: Session IX - Effective Experiments Poster Session

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Randy Knight
California Polytechnic State University
Physics Department
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407