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Algodoo Project (Physics simulation tool)

The education sector is undergoing a new kind of Renaissance, and owing to the pandemic, people are now more open to exploring the digital world. Information technology has taken over the learning process, leaving us with options we never knew existed before. Novel products are infiltrating the market every day. Virtual labs are no longer a thing of the past, especially as this is an era that is largely being characterized by rapid technological advancements. Although simulations and interactive labs can in no way replace actual labs and the process of experimentation, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. If we were to concentrate on the pros, Virtual labs are helpful in cases where the process of experimentation is tedious, slow, and/or abstract. The physics simulations project was designed keeping all these in mind.

Fig 1.0: Suvratha’s Contraption Simulation

In this particular Samvida project, students learnt how to use a software called Algodoo to create simulations. In the initial part, each of them submitted a simulation of a 7-step Contraption. This activity was given as an opportunity to get them familiarized with Algodoo and its tools, and help them understand various concepts relating to qualitative relationships between significant variables involved in 2D projectile motion (angle of projection, range, height, energy etc).

Best summarised in his own words, Chinmaya says “One of our summer projects this year was learning about Algodoo and experimenting with it. Algodoo is a simulation tool which enables us to do many things varying from a contraption to an experiment. This activity was extremely fun and we could play with the tools in the software. This was just our first activity in our project so that we would get familiar with the features, and the next activity was about understanding projectile motion. We were given a set of questions and we had to do some experiments to answer those questions.

Chinmaya’s Contraption Simulation – Let the Balloon Fly with a bottle flip

For example: we had to find out, how the maximum distance travelled and the maximum height reached of a ball thrown with a given speed varies with the angle of launch. Here, we had to assign a speed to the ball and vary the angles and check how the maximum height and maximum distance vary. We could also plot a graph for better understanding. All the assignment questions were very interesting and I loved doing the virtual experiments. It was like doing experiments without actually being in a lab. This project gave me a very good qualitative understanding of projectile motion. All in all, I enjoyed this project a lot.”

Dr. Prathik Cherian, the mentor for this project, says, “Simulations have always been an effective method for getting students to imbibe concepts. There are a lot of people who believe that it is not as good as literal hands-on activities. Personally, I am not so steadfast in ranking them as such. I think simulations are a fantastic way to engage students. Most of the students have really been enjoying working with Algodoo. It has given them an opportunity to do something that was not available to them before - namely, to be able to design and create their own simulations. I hope that they will gain some (virtual) experience of being a scientist and going through the scientific process - confronted with a phenomenon, conducting experiments, collecting data and then analyzing it and uncovering the qualitative relationships between the physical variables.

Another student Suvratha recounts his experience: “Amidst the situation outside, all of us had to stay home until everything cools down. All of us were bored as we couldn't step out or do anything outside home, plus we didn't have any classes then. So we were introduced to projects like learning about Physics Simulation. Prathik Anna helped us through the learning part and cleared our doubts. In the end we had to submit our own 7-step contraption where we also had to explain the energy transfers in each step. We could picture the concept of energy transfer very easily with this. Then we had to do a projectile motion simulation, plot graphs and collect data needed for answering some questions. We had not learnt a concept in this way before. Overall it was very fun. Hope to do more of Algodoo."

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