dan lasota's masters in education portfolio for online innovation and design


Lab Design

23 March 2015 project

The next phase of my project is about to begin. This is where I’ll work, at the intersection of three areas: physics, web interface, and pedagogy. If you’ve read my project proposal, you’ll see that I’m creating a Remote Control Laboratory (RCL), that will demonstrate the Faraday Effect.

Two clear blocks. One is nearly transparent the other is tinted green.

A plastic and glass block from a lab supply company.

The major caveat being that I won’t complete the final product. What’s missing? The machine/robotic interface between a server of some sort and the lab equipment on the table. In a finished RCL, students would interact with the equipment via a browser page and be able to control various settings in the experiment including:

  • Power to the lasers
  • Which color laser (red, green, blue)
  • The media that the laser travels through: air, plastic, normal glass, flint glass.
  • The current and voltage to the solenoid
  • The angle of the polarizing filter
  • The sensitivity of the light meter

But in order to control the above, I’ll need a hardware interface to all of that equipment, and probably a bunch of time in a machine room to create something capable of swapping the plastic and flint glass blocks. What my project will do is take it to that point and someone else can finish that step, or I can learn how to do it.

What I will be doing is creating a web interface. This interface will be used for some helpful testers to communicate with me and “tell” me what to swap for the block media, which angle to make the polarizing filter and how much to set the solenoid current.

Along the lines of physics, I need to gather equipment and test the physical parameters of the set up. Although I am going to demonstrate the Faraday Effect, it is not practical to give students a lab exercise where they have to test 400+ objects like Michael Faraday did in 1845. I must narrow the possible combinations, let the students build upon prior knowledge, and guide them into studying the noticeable and measurable rotation of polarized light. To that end, I am aiming for the physical parameters between the Verdet constant of the block, the field strength of the magnet, and the wavelength of the light to match up to produce around a 20-30 degree rotation. Such a rotation would be easily measurable by introductory Physics students.

Finally, from the corner of pedagogy, I need to construct some lab exercises, thought provoking questions, opportunities for collaboration and reflection on the part of the students.

Fortunately I have the help of the UAF Physics department. I have been provided the use of some lab space that is otherwise only being used on two nights of the week for instruction. I’ve been given use of a lab bench and have a pile of equipment for use.

I did need to purchase some material that wasn’t readily at hand. Namely a piece of flint glass. I also decided to purchase a normal glass block and a plastic block. (Pictured above). This package arrived from a lab supply company. Damn, Where is the Flint Glass?

I can at least get started with some of the prep work on the lab equipment in anticipation of receiving the flint glass. The flint glass has the only chance of producing a noticeable rotation with the magnetic field strength and light frequency that I’ll be working with.

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