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Great! I'll submit all my lab assignments!
Hold on! A hodge-podge of informal lab assignments from various institutions used out of context would make a terrible textbook. Besides, these are not traditional physics labs—everyone already has those!
Lab assignments should add significant value in comparison to traditional choices and must be adapted to meet the following goals:
- Consistent use of a small set of statistical measures
- An emphasis on quantitative conclusions (using 95% confidence intervals, probabilities, etc.)
- An Elements of Analysis chapter is included for a common reference.
- Uncertainty in slope and intercept and the correlation coefficient r is calculated using LINEST in spreadsheet software.
- Of interest to life science students and other humans
- Introduce transferable knowledge and research skills
- Use of only ubiquitous or free analysis tools, which life-long learners could conceivably use again, such as Excel.
- The use of “real life” applications and readily obtainable equipment is preferred over stylized academic experiments.
- Open-hardware solutions (such as Arduino data loggers) are preferred over lab-only equipment when practical.
- The use and interpretation of statistics in addition to “error propagation."
- Free (as in freedom) so that faculty can freely adapt and incorporate these labs into their own custom-published text/e-text/wiki.
- Currently, the model is simple, and we are open to suggestions to change how documents are shared.
- It would be ideal to use free software such as LibreOffice or LaTeX, but it seems that Microsoft Word seems more practical at present.
- Documents are currently available on OneDrive.live.com. Faculty may request viewing privileges for keys by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Faculty may fork their own version containing their edits and then notify the original author, who may merge the changes.
- Merging is currently handled using Microsoft Word reviewing tools, but we are open to suggestions!
- Conversations happen in a public forum.
- The art of Experimentation: The introductory laboratory should engage each student in significant experiences with experimental processes, including some experience designing investigation.
- Experimental and Analytical Skills: The laboratory should help the student develop a broad array of basic skills and tools of experimental physics and data analysis.
- Conceptual Learning: The laboratory should help students master basic physics concepts.
- Understanding the Basis of Knowledge in Physics: The laboratory should help students understand the role of direct observation in physics and to distinguish between inferences based on theory and the outcomes of experiments.
*Note that error analysis is necessary to fully meet goals II and IV.
Recommendations from SFFP and BIO2010
Traditional physics labs are far out of step with what is needed for life-science majors.
Consider the following selection from R. C. Hilborn and M. J. Friedlander:
In addition to science content topics, the  MCAT will test scientific inquiry and reasoning skills (SIRS):
- Knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.
- Scientific reasoning and evidence-based problem solving.
- Reasoning about the design and execution of research.
- Data-based and statistical reasoning.
Note that the quantitative skills focus on reasoning about data using statistics and other mathematical tools. These skills are just those that are taught—sometimes implicitly rather than explicitly—in the laboratory components of most introductory college and university science courses. [emphasis added]