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Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 1, Day 2) – Science Simulations: Computer Models of Change

Posted by on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 in Grade 3, Grade 4, SAVY.

Today, combining our preliminary work in ViMAP with our data from our “constant speed robots,”  we made our first computational simulations of motion. These models use the “step-size” of the agent to represent the distance traveled in each increment of time and can be used predict total distances traveled in longer trips of our robots.  We’ll do some sharing and critique of these models tomorrow.  

We forged ahead with a new and more complex case of motion: acceleration due to gravity.  Initially, we compared average speed on two different slopes–refocusing on speed as a ratio of the change in distance to the change in time, and worked hard to describe in words “where” speed is changing:  students decided that the speed of a rolling marble on an inclined plane was continuously changing.

We worked on a technique to figure out how much speed is changing, using a similar strategy we used with the robots.  As students pointed out, the process of speeding up will be too fast and unwieldy to manage in real-time, there’s no way we can put sticky  flags to mark position at fractions of seconds!  Instead, we made videos of the motion of the marbles down the ramp.  In the morning, we’ll begin taking measurements on these videos.

We also introduced a second computer programming language today:  Google’s Pencil Code (; uses CoffeeScript) has recently entered the scene as a generative language for learning programming.  

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