Reflection: Positive Reinforcement Design Your Rotating Space Ship - Section 3: You Design the Spaceship


Every year I do this activity, and every year I am amazed at what the students come up with. They can be so creative and many students let their artistic talents shine with activity. There are always a few groups that rush through this activity to get it done, but on the whole, most of the students enjoy thinking of something great and applying the physics to their proposed design. 

Mistakes that I commonly see involve units. Many students apply the familiar units of feet or miles, which gives them incorrect values as the acceleration due to gravity value they use is in meters per second squared. I try to catch those AS they are working on the problems. Another mistake I see is errors with algebraic manipulation. The first student work sample shows students have a problem solving for the tangential velocity. They divided when they should have multiplied. However, their design was well thought out and they showed effort and excellence in their drawing. This example was made by students who commonly struggle in my physics class due to their relatively weaker math skills. So I take this opportunity to provide positive reinforcement and celebrate something they are good at. I include the second student work example as an exemplar and one that was especially imaginative as they design a whole world for their space habitat.

  Positive Reinforcement: student work
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Design Your Rotating Space Ship

Unit 2: Forces in Two Dimensions
Lesson 8 of 16

Objective: Students will apply the concept of centripetal force to design their own spaceship and calculate the tangential velocity and period of rotation.

Big Idea: The normal force is the centripetal force that will keep an object stuck to the inside surface of a rotating object.

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