SCIENCE OF THE SUMMER OLYMPICS: Measuring a Champion - A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12) Print

Objective:

Framework for K–12 Science Education: Dimension 1 Practice 3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, PS2.B: Types of Interactions, LS1.D: Information Processing, ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems, ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions


Introduction Notes:

Science of the Summer Olympics

Measuring a Champion

A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning Information

 

About the Video

This video features Dr. Linda Milor, an electrical engineer at Georgia Institute of Technology, who explains modern timekeeping devices in terms of accuracy and precision. The video also highlights how such devices and the technologies associated with them are used for a variety of timed Olympic events, including track and field, swimming, and cycling.

 

0:00     0:12     Series Opening

0:13     0:56     Measuring Olympic timed events with accuracy

0:57     1:25     Introducing Linda Milor

1:26     2:30     Accuracy vs precision of modern timekeeping devices

2:31     3:42     Technology in track events

3:43     4:20     Technology in swimming events

4:21     5:04     Technology in marathons and cycling

5:05     5:23     Summary

5:24     5:35     Closing Credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Connect to Science

Framework for K–12 Science Education

Dimension 1 Practice 3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

PS2.B: Types of Interactions

LS1.D: Information Processing

 

Related Science Concepts

         Measurement

         Units of measure

         Time

         Accuracy

         Precision

         Speed

         Reaction time

 

(page 1)


Connect to Engineering

Framework for K–12 Science Education  ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

                                                                    ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

Engineering in Action

The problem presented to engineers in Science of the Summer Olympics (SOTSO): Measuring a Champion is the accurate measurement, using precise instruments, of timed events in which the difference between first and second place can be as little as one one-hundredth of a second. The problem to be solved when developing any kind of timekeeping system is the same, yet the constraints vary greatly depending on how and where the device will be triggered. Among constraints that vary are: the characteristics and purpose of the end users (the athletes and the judges); the degree of accuracy needed; the real-world conditions that the associated cameras, sensors, or tags might be subjected to when in use (pressure-sensitive pads in pools and track and field event lasers, for example); and potential health hazards, such as eye injuries that can occur when using lasers. The engineering knowledge-generating activity transfer from science would be key in the design solutions.

 

Take Action with Students

Help students brainstorm to form a list of some of the constraints within which engineers have to work to design some of the devices associated with Olympic water events. Use the list to initiate a discussion about waterproofing electronics for swim events, and the concept of changing one form of energy into another, such as the conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy when a swimmer stops the clock with a pressure-sensitive lane pad. Extend the discussion to include engineering design problems associated with any type of device that is manufactured for use in water, such as underwater cameras or watches, sounding devices used in ocean surveys, welding equipment used to build bridges and offshore oil platforms, pool pumps, and submersible research vessels, among others.

 

 

Inquiry Outline for Teachers

 

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on their grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 7.

 

Explore Understanding

Display a variety of clocks and stopwatches including analog clocks and watches with and without second hands, and with and without the minute markings. If possible, also include a clock without numbers. Set each clock to read the same time. Stopwatches should include those that record time to the minute as well as those that record time to the second or even hundredths of a second. Make sure to include devices that run on batteries as well as those that require electricity. Allow students two or three minutes to observe the clocks change time to see that not all will change at the same time. Now use the prompts that follow to stimulate discussion of the accuracy and precision of these timekeeping devices.

         All clocks and stopwatches are used to measure….

         Time on a clock is measured in units such as….

         I think the most accurate timekeeping device displayed/shown is _____ because….

(page 2)

 

         I think the most precise timekeeping device displayed/shown is _____ because….

         I would use the _____ to time an event such as _____ because….

 

Show the video SOTSO: Measuring a Champion.

 

Continue the discussion of accuracy and precision as they apply to time, using prompts such as the following:

         When I watched the video, I thought about….

         The expert in the video claimed that _____ because….

         The difference between accuracy and precision in any measurement is….

         In Olympic track events, false starts are detected when a runner….

         Laser beams in track events are used to….

         Swimming start blocks and lane pads are used to….

         Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags enable….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: This video makes me think about these questions…. Then have small groups list questions they have about the difference between accuracy and precision as the terms apply to timekeeping. Ask groups to choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. The following are some examples.

         Is a clock with a second hand as accurate as clock without one?

         Is a stopwatch that measures time to the nearest second more accurate than a clock with a second hand?

         Is a stopwatch that measures time to the nearest tenth of a second more accurate than a stopwatch that measures time to the nearest millisecond?

         Is a battery-operated clock more accurate than a clock that is plugged into the wall?

         How might battery freshness affect a clock’s precision?

         Does human reaction time affect the accuracy or precision of a time measurement?

         Is my own reaction time precise?

         Within what time parameters would measurements be considered precise?

         How can measurements be accurate and not precise? Or be precise, but not accurate?

 

Design Investigations

Choose one of these two options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level.

 

Open Choice Approach (Copy Master page 7)

Small groups might join together to agree on the same series of events to time, or each group might explore a different event and compare results as a class. Students should brainstorm to form a plan they would have to follow in order to answer the question. Work with students to develop safe procedures that control variables and enable them to make accurate and precise measurements. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         The event we will use to explore accuracy and precision is….

         The variable we will test is….

         The variables we will control are….

(page 3)

 

         The steps we will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

Focused Approach (Copy Master pages 8–9)

The following exemplifies one way students might investigate the accuracy and precision of timing devices.

1.      Ask students questions such as the following to help them envision their investigation.

         In terms of time, what is a second?

         How many seconds are there in a minute?

         What are some events lasting only a few seconds that can be timed?

2.      Students might measure the time required for an event such as a marble to move down a track. Show students materials you have available, such as objects that roll, surfaces to use as track that can be repositioned, and timing devices. Give them free rein in determining how they will explore the accuracy and precision of timing devices. Examining a range of materials might help students refine their questions or lead to new questions that they should record for later exploration.

3.      Students might time the movement of the marble down a track with a stopwatch that measures to the nearest second and a clock with a second hand. Before they actually begin to explore their questions, students will have to determine how steep to make the slope of the track or tubing so that it takes the marble a few seconds (perhaps 5 or 10), to go from start to finish. Students will also have to determine an accepted value to use as a reference. Use the following prompts to guide students in their thinking.

         How can you make the marble go faster down the track?

         What could you do to make it move more slowly down the track?

         What is meant by an “accepted value” for this investigation?

         How many significant digits will you use in your calculations?

4.      To determine an accepted value, students would need to construct their tracks and do several practice runs to get an average value from both timepieces to use for comparison. Ensure that students remember to record their data, and if necessary, review or explain how to find an average.

5.      Encourage students to brainstorm to form a list of variables involved in this experiment and determine which can be controlled and which cannot. As needed, help them focus on their proposed procedures by using prompts such as the following:

         The variable we will test is….

         The variables we will control are….

         The materials we will use are….

         We will start/stop recording time when….

         We will repeat the run _____ times to ensure that my time data are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

6.      Recommend that students work collaboratively within their groups. Students might prop up track or tubing on a couple of thick books so that a marble moves freely and completely down the track or through the tube. The marble would be released at the same point and height from the top of the track or tubing each time. The student releasing the marble would give a signal upon release so that those timing it can start their measurements. A fourth student could be responsible for calling out the point at which the marble exits the

(page 4)

 

track or tubing. Another person in the group could be responsible for recording all of the measurements. Use prompts such as the following to help students determine their roles within their groups.

         Each group member knows a trial has begun when….

         Group members will know when a trial ends by….

         Tasks that have to be done during each trial are….

         The group members performing each task are….

7.      Students might continue their investigation by exploring how changing the slope of the track or tubing affects time, how using a larger or smaller marble might affect time, or by using timing devices that are more or less accurate than those tested.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, ensure that they record their observations. As needed, suggest ways they might organize their data using tables or graphs. Students should analyze their data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence their data shows. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… we claim… because….

 

An example claim comparing data from a stopwatch and a clock with a second hand might be:

As evidenced bythe consistency of the time data, we claim that both timekeeping devices are precise because all of the times varied only by one or two seconds. We also claim that the data collected by the stopwatch was more accurate than the data collected by the clock with the second hand because these values were closer to the accepted value we determined.

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their ideas with others, such as classmates who investigated ramps with the same slope or with those whose ramps were steeper or less steep than their own, material they found on the Internet, an expert they chose to interview, or their textbook. Remind students to credit their original sources in their comparisons. Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as the following:

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

My ideas are similar to my classmates’ in that the data from groups that tested tracks of the same length and slope had similar results.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before. Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         One concept I still do not understand involves….

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

(page 5)

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 10.

 

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Visualize a Concept: Use the information presented at the beginning of the video to review or explain the difference between one one-hundredth of a second (0.01) and one one-thousandth of a second (0.001), or the accuracy with which the timed events in the 2008 Summer Games differed from that in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Tell students to blink their eyes—an action that takes place in less than 0.01 seconds. Now ask them to try to envision a length of time on the order of 10x faster!

 

Compare and Contrast: Show students common timekeeping devices such as a calendar, an hourglass timer, a sundial, or a stopwatch. Guide them to understand that the best choice for a timekeeping device may not be the most accurate or precise one. The amount of time students spend in a holiday break, for example, would not be measured in minutes. The calendar showing days is as accurate and precise as is needed for this use. Similarly, students would not use a stopwatch to time a cake baking or an analog clock to time a 50-meter race.

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these Es:

Explore: Use the Design Investigations section of the Inquiry Outline to support your lessons on measurements.

Elaborate: Focus students on the first half of the video segment of technology in track events (2:31–3:08) as a springboard to encourage students to learn more about how a person reacts to a sound or some other type of signal in terms of anatomy and physiology. Ask students to summarize their findings with detailed diagrams.

 

Connect to … Social Studies/Technology

Have students read about an Olympic track and field policy adopted in 2010, in which any false start will remove an athlete from competing in the event. Have students debate the fairness of this issue in terms of both technology and human reaction time. Divide the class into three teams: one that will argue in favor of the stated topic, one that will argue against it, and one that will act as the audience. Have students work together to arrange ideas for their team’s arguments and for refuting the other team’s arguments. The audience might do research about the topic in order to ask relevant questions. Hold the debate by allowing for arguments and rebuttals, back and forth until all members of both teams have had the opportunity to speak at least one time. When the debate has ended, ask the audience to determine which team “won” and why. Remind students to base their vote on evidence presented in the debate only, not their personal opinions of the topic debated. Was there one specific argument that convinced them that one team won?

 

Use Video in Assessment

Stop the video at 1:31 or give students a screen grab of the frame showing a stopwatch reading 0:22.004 and the terms accuracy and precision, and provide the following instructions.

(page 6)

 

Define each term shown and using the stopwatch value as a reference, list three accurate values and three precise values.

 

 

 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: Measuring a Champion

Use this guide to investigate a question about the difference between the accuracy and precision of a measure of time. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose one question. How can you answer it? Brainstorm with your teammates. Write a procedure that controls variables and makes accurate measurements. Add safety precautions as needed.

         The event I will use to explore accuracy and precision is….

         The variable I will test is….

         The variables I will control are….

         The steps I will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations. Organize your data in tables or graphs as appropriate.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

(page 7)

 

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         One concept I still do not understand involves….

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: Measuring a Champion

Use this guide to investigate a question about the accuracy and precision of timing devices. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How can the accuracy and precision of two different timing devices be compared when used to measure the same event?

 

Design Investigations

Brainstorm with your group about how to answer the question. Write a procedure that controls variables and allows you to make accurate measurements. Add safety precautions as needed. Use these prompts to help you design your investigation.

         A object’s speed along a distance is determined by….

         To get an ‘accepted’ value for the time it takes an object to move from one end of a track to the other end of the track, I will….

         The variable I will test is….

         The steps I will follow to test my variable include….

         The variables I will control are….

         I will repeat each trial _____times to make sure….

         To be safe, I need to….

 

Record Data and Observations

Organize your observations and data in tables or graphs as appropriate. The table below is an example using a marble rolling down a track and timing the events with a clock with a second hand and a stopwatch that measures time in seconds.

 

How Different Timing Devices Measure the Same Event

 

 

 

Event Number

Time (s)

Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 3

Average

Clock

Stopwatch

Clock

Stopwatch

Clock

Stopwatch

Clock

Stopwatch

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence shown by your data. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who did the investigation using a track and timepieces that were similar to yours or with those who did the investigation using a different track and timepieces from yours. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         I claim that my ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence…

         My ideas changed in the following ways…

         One concept I still do not understand involves….

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 9)

 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question had a yes/no answer, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data (e.g., number of trials, control of variables) was not sufficient.

Variables were clearly identified and controlled as needed with steps and trials that resulted in data that could be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment was used and only some safe practices needed for this investigation were followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and Data

Observations were not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations were made, but were not very detailed, or data appear invalid or were not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations were made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim was marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim was backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflections were limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

(page 10)

 

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