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Experimentation and the Digital Camera

Digital images can be used as effective tools for students in lab situations.

Scenario: Strobe photography of motion
Your students are participating in a motion lab. The students will be observing horizontal motion across a plane and falling bodies. Traditionally such an experiment would involve the use of tap-timers and some maybe some Polaroid photography (which would then have to be copied and enlarged, although getting the right film and finding Polaroid cameras has become an issue since they went bankrupt).  Instead you can use a mobile device's digital camera and a good strobe. This way, each student can do his or her own motion experiment and collect imaging data and then analyze the images to calculate linear and falling motion. By using a smart phone's digital camera, it becomes affordable for each student to have images of the experiment. Each student or group performs the lab, taking a strobe photo (about 2000-3000 fpm [flashes per minute] with their camera flash turned off) of the motion as it occurs. A low light level in the room is used; total dark is not necessary. Objects are moved in the foreground with a ruler (a regular meter stick works well; no special black and white ruler is needed) and dark material in the background. Through a USB connection, the images are immediately transferred to a computer and made available through the school's network. Each student prints out the images on paper and makes the measurements on the lab sheet (images automatically to scale) and performs individual calculations and analysis.

Images can be used todisplay lab setup. The images could be put onto overheads, lab instruction sheets, or large screen display as part of the pre-lab. picture of lab setup
Images can be collected during the lab to be used for documentation of completion and for inclusion in the student's lab report. The image can give the student an object to focus the report on and become a component of the student's portfolio. picture documenting the students lab
Take images to use as a pre-lab class calculation/analysis object, display an image by projecting (overhead, TV/Video, video projector), and perform analysis. The image can also be used to show the approximate standard for students' own images. Strobed photo of a rolling object with ruler
By using the strobe you can capture a still image that displays motion.  It is even possible to capture the motion occurring in two dimensions as the falling body moves across.  Students can use the calculations from the falling data to calculate the velocity in the other dimension.  
A picture of of the experiment can be used to take the students through the step by step analysis and calculations of their own images. Project an image then explain to the students how to measure and analyze their own images.
Step by Step rollover of changing picture to add text
Hold your mouse over each step to get directions while it changes the picture above
Project the image onto a whiteboard or TVMark the distances that the object has fallen between strobesMeasure the distances to scale and calculate the acceleration
  • Use the digital camera to create your own virtual dissections.
  • Take your own time lapse photography and then combine into digital video/animation.
  • Document life cycles.
  • Collect image sequences of long term events, such as changing shadows, sun zenith position, stellar motion, and other seasonal changes.
  • Use the digital camera for a live display of dissection, owl pellets, or crystal formation that would otherwise be difficult to display to a group.
  • Use the digital camera with scientific tools such as telescopes and microscopes for documentation and sharing.
  • Collect wave motion or stream table video.
  • Take before and after pictures for analysis of stress points, from objects that students construct (bridge building, etc.)

Digital cameras in education