Constraints in Physics Lab Courses: the Good, the Bad, and the Pandemic

    Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a workshop, seminar, course or other meeting


    Lab courses teach students that managing constraints is integral to scientific experimentation. For instance, while constraints on integration time, sampling rate, and measurement precision can all lead to higher measurement uncertainties, a clever experimental design can lower uncertainties by constraining environmental noise. Students must also understand the constraints that approximate mathematical models have in describing physical systems.

    Lab instructors also manage constraints. Choices must be made about which types of experiments and methods will be treated and how best to organize limited instruction time. The ongoing pandemic complicates these choices and exacerbates constraints on the availability of and access to equipment. Thus, within a given program’s constraints, how can advanced labs best support authentic experiences in experimental research?

    Here we report on pandemic-resilient flipped-lab methods leveraging the Maker movement and empowering students to design and conduct experiments at home at intermediate and advanced levels. Constraints on facilities and in-person contact time are overcome by the wide and growing variety of inexpensive solid-state and modern MEMS sensors which students control with self-programmed microprocessors. Enabling open scientific inquiries guarantees that students learn to control and even utilize constraints in experimental research.
    Period16 Mar 2021
    Event titleAPS March Meeting 2021
    Event typeConference