Workshop Physics Lab Design

The new Tome Science Building at Dickinson College features a Workshop Laboratory Center funded by the Keck Foundation. This lab center is designed to work with the introductory Workshop Physics courses. These courses use an activity-based style of teaching that is lab-centered. In them, students use personal computers for the collection, display, and analysis of real data. Student learning has been enhanced significantly through the use of specially designed laboratory facilities.


At Dickinson, as shown in the diagram above, students can work in primary groups of two or four depending on the activity at hand. There are two labs that each accomodate up to 24 students at 6 workstations and one lab that accomodates up to 32 students at 8 workstations. Although the front of the room is outfitted with whiteboards and a large demonstration table, the students spend most of their time at their lab tables performing their own experiments. The computers are on the periphery of the room so they are within easy reach for data collection and analysis but not in the way of the experiment. Also, the instructor can easily see what all the students are doing on the computers. There is ample space in the middle of the room for large scale experiments, such as kinesthetic experiences and rotational motion demonstrations.


Fig 1: A typical Setup at Dickinson College

Generally, either two or four students will work at a lab table, but as you can see in Fig. 1, the setup at Dickinson is flexible. In fact, the lab table is composed of several modular sections that can be reconfigured for different classroom activities. The tables at Dickinson allow students to work on their experiments, use the computers, and still have room for their activity guides and belongings.


Fig 2: Computer configurations used at Dickinson for computer based data acquisition.
(a) Vernier Logger Pro 3/Lab Pro
(b) PASCO Data Studio with Science Workshop 750 Interface

Although iMacs running OS X are used at Dickinson, all the software needed for Workshop Physics courses works almost identically in Windows environments. As you can see in Fig. 2, the setup consists of a desktop computer, hardware with its associated hardware for data collection and analysis, various probes to connect to the data collection devices, and other software that is used with Workshop Physics.


Fig 3: Video & Computer LCD Projector.

Workshop classrooms at Dickinson feature LCD projectors for student or instructor presentations, videos, and a large display for real-time experiments being conducted during an Interactive Lecture Demonstration. In the introductory classes at Dickinson, students are required to produce a major research project or experiment based on the concepts learned in Workshop Physics. They must use these projection facilities to support the presentation of their work.


Fig 4: Demonstration Table.

The instructor's area at the "front" of the room features a large table for experiments or demonstrations, lots of space for student or teacher materials on the table, and a large whiteboard for the Instructor and student use. A hinged flap at the left end of the table can be opened to access a sink used for experiments involving water. The center of the Demo table is also removable for demonstratons involving the 1 dimensional kinesthetic cart.


Fig 5: Center of the Workshop Room.

Here you can see the large space at the center of the room. The low friction circular surface in the center is used for kinesthetic carts, large rolling objects, and rotational motion experiments.