Alternate title: Forget blue books, we’ve got heat guns
It’s time for the winter trimester exams. Given that robotics is a new prep for me, I’ve carefully considered what my exam should look like. My design goals were roughly as follows: 1) mirror the type of learning we’ve done this year, 2) but not rehash old material, 3) uphold my emphasis on deferring to the documentation, and 4) be achievable by a range of students in about 2 hours.
Below is the exam as I’ll give it to the students. At the end is a video demonstrating my thermometer (which will *not* be given to the students).
Create a thermometer that reads and displays the temperature.
- display the temperature on a physical scale in °C
- distinguish temperatures to a resolution of 5°C (as in, the user should be able to tell 25°C from 30°C)
- run a self-test on startup to show the thermometer’s possible range of values (as in, hit the lowest temp on your scale and the highest on startup)
- servo motor
- digital temperature sensor and pull-up resistor
- breadboard with plenty of jumper wires
- Arduino Uno compatible board with USB cable
- paper, pen, ruler, scissors, tape
- heat gun
- You may use any resources of your choosing, with one exception — no consulting with live humans. This means internet searching is allowed but emailing a friend is not.
- You may borrow sample code from the internet, so long as you cite it and link to the source.
Please submit a Google Doc writeup of your finished product.
- Introduction that explains the project and gives photos of the finished product (60% of the points) & a video (or link) in which you fully demonstrate the thermometer (10% of the points)
- Describe how the digital temperature sensor works (in terms of the scientific principle it operates on) (10%)
- Your commented code (15%)
- Wiring diagram or description (5%)
I love this so much, and I have so many questions. First, how successful were the students on this task? Were all of them able to build a basic temperature sensor?
My biggest question is why can’t we have a physics exam like this. We did a collaborative practicum based exam this semester, and it felt awesome—but I still wish for more. What if students came out of our exam having created something useful based on their understanding of physics. And why couldn’t this be the exam for a physics class, anyway? Seems like it would be great for a physics class to learn how sensors work on a fundamental level, and even to learn some basic Arduino programming. What if students in a physics class built their own probeware?
I love the collaboration policy—I wonder what this sort of policy would do for even normal-ish physics exams? My one fear is that students would spend too much time trying to Google their way to answers, but I think you could easily structure the exam to discourage this.
Anyway, I hope you and your students had a great experience with this. Thanks for inspiring me!
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