Sunday, July 20, 2014

Site Swap Notation

Site swap notation is a chance to have some fun in physical science and to gain exposure to a non-traditional mathematical notation system. Some of the thinking behind the design of this laboratory is covered in a May blog on this same laboratory.

Maria-Asuncion Paul.

Emmy Rose Gilmete

Dyron Perez

Pamela Edgar

Stephanie Usiel

Maria-Asuncion Paul


Rain aborted the use of flying disk flight distances as the mathematical models practical laboratory. At 11:25 I made the call to switch from flying disks to pendulums. The laboratory is a straightforward laboratory, but the relationship between the length of the pendulum and the period is a square root relationship. The complication is that except for the data point (0 centimeters, 0 seconds), the points tend to appear to be roughly linear to the untrained eye. The lengths would have to exceed 265 centimeters.

Stevenson and Ursula set up their pendulum.

Emmy Rose times, Pamela Edgar swings the pendulum, and Correy Abraham handles changes in length of the pendulum.

Bryan Wichep, Heron Susaia, and Stephanie Usiel measure the length of a pendulum.

Ball arc flight distance in trigonometry class

In MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry the formula distance = (2 velocity² sin θ cos θ)/gravity arises in the text. Rather than leave the concepts completely abstract, the class went outside with a protractor and radar gun to obtain measurements of the launch velocity and launch angle. This term the class did not attempt to measure the distance of flight.

Midson Tom and Angie Joab hold meters sticks, Jamal Ranganbay is pitching, Tommy Wichilbuch Jr. holds the radar gun.

One of the set of numbers out this exercise was a launch velocity of 12.2 m/s at an angle of 47 degrees. The exercise also helps demonstrate that out in the "real world" angle measuring devices utilize degrees and not radians. There are fields in which radians are more useful, for example those fields which study wave-based phenomenon, but where static angles are involved degrees are more often used.

Disliking math and science: Affective domain assessment

I enjoy learning and sharing that joy with learners. Rousseau in Emile suggested that learning should be enjoyable to the Emile who is engaged in that learning. In the tragic event that Emile does not survive to adulthood, that schooling should not be seen by Emile himself as a waste of his short time on earth. Schooling that purports to teach skills only useful in some future context risks this outcome. The Jeffersonian general education that builds towards the formation of a well-rounded person includes subjects that the learner might never utilize in their future vocation or career. These subjects have a special onus to not leave the learner saying, "Well that was 45 hours of my life I will never get back!"

I seek to engender learning, yet I also seek to share the wonder and joy of the subject I am teaching. Exponential functions, trigonometry, and physical science are not typically courses that evoke fond memories in former students. In addition to engendering learning, I hope to improve affective domain attitudes towards these subjects.

In MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry a survey of 22 students indicated that prior to the class seven students disliked mathematics, thirteen were neutral, and two said they liked mathematics. During the term only one students expressed dislike for the course, ten students were neutral, and eleven students liked the course. After taking the class fifteen students were neutral towards mathematics and seven liked mathematics.

At the start of the term only two students had thought about being a mathematics major. At the end of the course six students, including the two who were favorably disposed to math at the start of the term, were now giving thought to majoring in mathematics. A few students thanked me at the end of the summer term for having had fun in algebra and trigonometry. The college has a vision of engendering a life long passion for learning, yet without a like for a subject that life long learning is rather unlikely to occur.

A similar survey was run in SC 130 Physical Science. Among the fourteen students only two disliked science as a subject at the start of the term, science was not perceived as negatively as mathematics.This course also improved students enjoyment of science.

Of the fourteen students only one had thought about majoring in science prior to the class. At the end of the course six of fourteen had thought about majoring in science. With the core of the course being an attempt to show how nature is mathematical, sparking an interest in science as a pursuit of mathematical models of reality among students with limited mathematics skills is a challenge. The course has to build the prerequisite mathematics skills necessary to appreciating the mathematical nature of the physical world. In order to see the beauty, the magic in a mathematical universe, the student has to comprehend equations as models, mathematics in an applied context.

Changing attitudes towards physical science is sometimes done in a non-major science course by removing the mathematics and running the course as a science appreciation course. SC 130 Physical Science has put mathematics at the core of a class for non-majors. Granted, the mathematics is non-calculus based math. Many laboratories focus on a simple linear relationship, but this is necessary when only one or two students of fourteen can calculate a slope from a linear graph or a linearly related data set at the term start. At term end fourteen of fifteen students could determine a slope from a graph and ten of fifteen students could determine a slope from linearly related data. The course retains the mathematical beauty of the natural sciences in a non-major course while building positive feelings towards science.

Mathematics and science are not usually liked subjects among non-majors, yet both the trigonometry and physical science course have improved student attitudes towards the subjects. The courses have even increased the number of students who would at least consider majoring in the field. These are soft impacts not usually measured in the emphasis on cognitive domain student learning outcomes, yet both the affective and psychomotor domains are also important. At the college, course outlines primarily focus on cognitive outcomes, yet if the college is to fully realize its vision of creating life long learners, then courses must also engender a liking for the subjects being taught at the college.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lubuntu Xubuntu Windows 7 Footprint

Lubuntu and Xubuntu are members of the Ubuntu extended family of operating systems, both intended to use less resources than Ubuntu. To provide additional computing resources to the students who come in for assistance, I use computers that the college is no longer deploying. In this instance a couple of MPC ClientPro computers from circa 1995 are in use, one running Lubuntu and one running Xubuntu. The two rigs are not identical. At some point I read somewhere that the Lubuntu OS had a smaller memory footprint than Xubuntu, and so I thought I would have a look at the memory footprints for the two computers.

The Lubuntu rig is running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with the LXDE desktop environment. For those unfamiliar with the world of Ubuntu, that is the April 2014 build of the Ubuntu OS. I would note that neither computer could run the 2014 build of the Windows operating system - Windows 8.1. 

The Lubuntu 14.04 system in idle after boot is using 114 MB of the 241 MB of RAM available on the computer. That is not a typo, the computer has only "256 MB" of RAM on board. CPU usage is 0%. 

The Xubuntu rig is running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with the XFCE 4 desktop environment. 

The Xubuntu 14.04 system is also in idle after boot. The Xubuntu system never does seem to drop to 0% CPU usagee. The usage ranges from 6% to 13%, the image above catching the machine at 8%. Xubuntu is using 452 MB of 739 MB. Note that this is not intended as a scientific test of identical rigs identically configured, just two computers of a similar era running Lubuntu and Xubuntu.

For reference, a 2012 Dell Optiplex 390 running Windows 7 Professional 64 bit Service Pack 1 with 4 GB of RAM is using 1280 MB. The OS credits itself as being 2009 OS - essentially a five year old OS. CPU usage is spiky but returns to 0% between events. After an hour in idle, the computer had settled down to 0% CPU usage and "only" 778 MB of RAM footprint. 

The Lubuntu desktop is similar to the Windows 95/98 desktop with a start menu and static menu items. Xubuntu is a related desktop - a menu selects progams - but there is a user configurable "favorite" programs menu that opens as the default menu panel. A nice touch and helpful to users transitioning from other operating systems. Either one will perform well on older systems, but if the system is severely memory challenged then Lubuntu is the obvious choice.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A RipStik sine wave in trigonometry class done right

For test six in MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry I opted to lead off with a wave equation question built on an actual RipStik wave done just before class on the day of the test. I tried a eastbound downhill run from the Learning Resource Center, but the speed was too fast. On a single sheet of poster paper I had at best half a wavelength and an amplitude of maybe three centimeters. I tried the uphill from the north faculty building, but that was too steep. My runs were crooked, wobbly, irregular, and generated chaotic waves. I then opted for a westbound run towards the LRC in front of the south faculty building, placing two 82 cm long poster pad papers on the ground. I did a steady swizzle run up the slope trying to ensure that my centerline was straight. I focused on a point at the far end of the sheets, and worked to ensure my track was straight. Whether I would achieve a sine, negative sine, cosine, or negative cosine was not within my control.

The RipStik moved from right to left above, with the left exit edge providing a nice sine wave.

Moved onto the board the numbers were at seen above. The centerline was one of the straightest I have achieved in many a term. A warped meter stick up in A101 provided just the right amount of curve to get a good center line down the middle of the slightly wavering center line. The run was moderately slow, as can be seen by the 1.47 seconds to cover 164 centimeters. The amplitude was about as good as I get on a cruise run. All-in-all I was rather pleased with the result, especially the unexpected sine wave start on the left side. I had thought I might have to trim the paper to start the wave on a clean sine wave as the test presumes a sine wave. Of course one could phase shift anything to be a positive sine wave, but that is confusing for my students and beyond their current ability.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A visit to the weather station

A visit to the National Weather Service station in Kolonia, Pohnpei by the SC 130 Physical Science class.

The bus arrived from Palikir at almost 9:50 A.M. exactly, just in time for the 10:00 balloon launch. The launch window is 10:00 to 10:15.

The balloon uses hydrogen gas for lift. Hydrogen gas is less dense than air, so the balloon "floats" on the atmosphere

Director Skilling invited the class to participate in the balloon launch.

The weather station makes its own hydrogen on site from water.

Mr. Nanpei explains the preparation procedure. The balloon is very thin and delicate. Even the oil from fingers could weaken the balloon and reduce the performance of the balloon. Here in the western Pacific there are only a few islands from which balloons can be launched, so the work of the station is very important to providing data points for weather forecasting.

The steel table is kept perfectly clean in order to not damage the balloon.

Hydrogen is light and flammable, thus precautions and procedures are posted clearly on the wall.

The balloon lifts a small and light data recording and transmitting package that sends back information on temperature, humidity, and air pressure. The battery for the device is activated by placing the battery in water!

Temperature port.

Taylor wound up with the balloon.

Taylor walked the balloon out to the launch area.

Pamela set up to take pictures of Taylor with the balloon.

Taylor awaits instructions from NOAA Affiliate Nanpei.

When the balloon is released, the balloon rockets upwards startling fast, much faster than a helium balloon.

The packet is then pulled aloft.

The balloon and the sensors are aloft!

Inside the operations center Mr. Nanpei explains the many roles and duties the station fulfills as Wecklew listens. NOAA Affiliate and climatologist Jacobs, on the right, watches Super Typhoon Neoguri spinning on a screen.

Data flowing back from the balloon sensors. Temperature, direction, distance, humidity, air pressure.

Temperature data falling with altitude.

A satellite image on the left, METAR report on the right.

The class was all eyes and ears. Charles, Dyron, Wecklew, Correy, Maria-Asuncion, Heron, Emmy Rose

METAR data under a 24 hour clock.

Directional data for the balloon aloft. The balloon can ascend to 10000 meters, about 30000 feet. Eventually the envelope ruptures and the packet falls into the ocean.

Air pressure at the station and the altimeter setting for the station.

Real time earthquake data for rapid response tsunami warnings. The Pacific Disaster Center offers a similar but more generic capability to the public.

Real time interactive buoy querying software. The station can pull up any buoy (green dots) and look for the characteristics of the waves to determine the risk of a tsunami having developed.

The class wrapped up with a video on El Nino. The station is always seeking better ways to serve the public. A recent experimental outreach initiative example is their FaceBook page.