Race to improve student understanding of uncertainty: Using LEGO race cars in the physics lab

Maria Parappilly, Christopher Hassam, Richard Woodman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    4 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Laboratories using LEGO race cars were developed for students in an introductory physics topic with a high early drop-out rate. In a 2014 pilot study, the labs were offered to improve students' confidence with experiments and laboratory skills, especially uncertainty propagation. This intervention was extended into the intro level physics topic the next year, for comparison and evaluation. Considering the pilot study, we subsequently adapted the delivery of the LEGO labs for a large Engineering Mechanics cohort. A qualitative survey of the students was taken to gain insight into their perception of the incorporation of LEGO race cars into physics labs. For Engineering, the findings show that LEGO physics was instrumental in teaching students the measurement and uncertainty, improving their lab reporting skills, and was a key factor in reducing the early attrition rate. This paper briefly recalls the results of the pilot study, and how variations in the delivery yielded better learning outcomes. A novel method is proposed for how LEGO race cars in a physics lab can help students increase their understanding of uncertainty and motivate them towards physics practicals.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)68-76
    Number of pages10
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physics
    Volume86
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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