Programming Tools for Introductory Physics (PTIP) Workshop
September 30 – October 2, 2010 – Southeast Community College, Lincoln, NE
David Vernier (Vernier Software & Technology, Beaverton, OR)
Sam Swartley (Vernier Sotware & Technology, Beaverton, OR)
Martin Mason (Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, CA)
Kent Reinhard (Southeast Community College, Lincoln, NE)
Dwain Desbien (Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale, AZ)
Tom O’Kuma (Lee College, Baytown, TX)

This workshop is intended for those who are teaching students who plan to become engineers, physical
scientists or technicians in technology-related industries. Recent microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) and
computational tools coupled with an activity-based physics approach provides a better method of teaching physics to
these future professionals by enabling the teaching/learning process to build on students’ direct experiences in the
physics classroom/laboratory or studio.

Vernier Software & Technology interfaces along with various sensors, connectors, and LabVIEW software
have been used extensively in MBLs to collect data or to control digital or analog lines. Additionally, Vernier has
developed a number of sensors and activities appropriate for pre-engineering education (see:

LabVIEW is a powerful graphic programming tool from National Instruments used extensively in
engineering and research. Knowledge of LabVIEW is often a skill that helps students find their first job after
college. LabVIEW makes creating a data acquisition and control program relatively easy and even makes
possible features such as web publishing. LabVIEW makes feedback and control systems, such as temperaturecontrolled
environments, stepper motors that respond to a sensor input, or alarms that go off when sensor limits
are exceeded into manageable projects. This hands-on workshop will provide participants with an introduction to
some of the basics of LabVIEW. This includes the LabVIEW environment, features, and dataflow programming
so that participants can create simple applications that acquire, process, display, and store real-world data using
the SensorDAQ/LabPro/LabQuest and sensors. All Vernier interfaces can be used with LabVIEW, but this
workshop will focus on the use of the Vernier SensorDAQ.

Traditional Physics courses have a strong emphasis on analytical problem solving, however computational and
numerical problem-solving techniques are as important for the modern engineering or science student. The 2002 AIP
survey [i.Ivie & Stowe-2002] assessed graduates' work responsibilities and preparation for these provided by their
physics education. The most significant discrepancies between their preparation and workplace requirements were in
two areas: use of scientific software and ability to program computations. Computational modeling has emerged as an
accepted, and in many STEM fields an indispensable, methodology for scientific research and engineering
development. [ii. Duderstadt et al.-2002] For example, many science and engineering areas of research involve multiphysics modeling, where the interdependence of component processes lying in different physical domains can only be expressed in terms of couplings between separate computational models from each domain.

This workshop will show participants how they can introduce computation into their introductory courses.
Participants will engage in a hands-on introduction to computational modeling in the Vpython programming
language and learn to develop their own exercises and student projects. A framework for computational projects
will be demonstrated along with several example projects, and a discussion of how computational modeling can
be implemented in a Two Year College environment.

There will also be an opportunity to share and discuss issues relating to implementation and to teaching physics
more effectively. There will be extensive discussions on how to use various strategies, tools, and tactics to overcome
problems and barriers. Discussion and information on the needs of the technological workforce and its connection with
the activities of this workshop will also be presented. The workshop leaders have years of experience in developing
and refining curriculum for introductory physics students.

The local host will be Kent Reinhard who has implemented MBL and LabVIEW into his physics program at
Southeast Community College.

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i . R. Ivie and K. Stowe, The Early Careers of Physics Bachelors American Institute of Physics, College Park,
MD, AIP Pub. R-433.2, (2002).
ii . J. Duderstadt et al. Issues for Science and Engineering Researchers in the Digital Age. Ad Hoc Committee
On Being A Scholar In The Digital Age, Office of Special Projects, National Research Council, Washington D.C.