SCIENCE OF THE SUMMER OLYMPICS: Measuring a Champion - An Engineering 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

An Engineering 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

         Friction

         Gravity

         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.

 

When engineers consider the problem of timekeeping at the 2012 Summer Olympics, they already have an idea of what works. Two companies, Omega and Seiko, have held the title of “official timekeeper” for most Olympic Games since 1932. Identifying problems that occurred during previous Olympics and other world-class competitions leads to innovations that make time-keeping more accurate and precise. Still, backup systems are used in case of failure. Analyzing timing in previous games and other events would be part of the engineering knowledge-generating activity direct trial.

 

Take Action with Students

Encourage students to evaluate the tools they have available to determine which is the best tool to use for timing an event with accuracy and precision, using the Design Investigations section of the Inquiry Outline as a guide. As a class, students should establish the constraints in which they will be conducting their trials for analysis, such as number of trials, number of devices compared, and number of backup systems to be included as supporting evidence.

 

 

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 timekeeping devices, such as calendars, hourglasses, sundials, analog clocks (with and without second hands, minute markings, and numbers), digital clocks/watches, or stopwatches. Then use prompts such as the following to spark a discussion of the concept of timekeeping and how the tools differ.

 

(page 2)

 

         The purpose of the devices is to….

         ______ might have been invented in response to a need such as…..

         _____ would be a good device for timing an event such as _____ because....

         A calendar is a poor choice to time class periods because….

         A stopwatch is a poor choice to time the baking of cookies because….

         A _____ might not be reliable for reproducible results because….

         Time for an event measured by an analog clock with minute marks and a second hand and one with hour marks and a minute hand might differ because….

 

Show the video SOTSO: Measuring a Champion.

 

Focus students on the discussion of accuracy and precision, as well as the problem of false starts and the measures taken to prevent them in athletic competitions. Use the following or similar prompts to sustain the discussion.

         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 and swimming events, false starts are detected when a runner or swimmer….

         The measures taken to eliminate these false starts include….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: This video makes me think about these questions…. Then have small groups brainstorm to make a list of events of varying lengths they might reproduce and time, such as races of mechanical fish in a tank, windup toy cars or plastic walking toys, marbles on a ramp, individuals on the school track or swimming teams, or bicycle riders. Some events should occur in a matter of seconds while others should take a few minutes. Have students list questions they have about factors that influence how the event might best be timed with both accuracy and precision. Then groups should choose one and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. The following are some examples.

         What is the best timing device to use for the event we have chosen?

         Which timing device will give us the most accurate results for each event?

         Which timing device will be the most precise for each event?

         What physical properties of our venue might influence how we time the event?

         How can we ensure that we start the timing devices exactly when the “athlete” starts?

         How can we ensure that we stop the timing devices exactly when the “athlete” crosses the finish line?

         How can accuracy or precision be improved in the timing effort?

         How can false starts be mitigated?

 

Design Investigations

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

 

Open Choice Approach (Copy Master pages 7-8)

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. Give students free rein in

(page 3)

 

determining which events they will stage, how they will stage them, and how they will solve the problem of determining the most accurate and precise timing device to use for each. Remind them that backup systems should be identified and used to support their findings. If time allows, let students informally use or manipulate the various timing devices you have available—classroom clock, stopwatches, sensors—as they refine their investigation. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         The three events we are testing are….

         The timing devices we are using are….

         In staging our events, we should consider….

         Our backup systems include….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

Focused Approach (Copy Master pages 8-9)

The following exemplifies one way in which students might evaluate the accuracy and precision of timing tools they have available for specific events, and determine appropriate backup systems in case of failure.

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

         How might the timing device for a marathon differ from that for the 100-meter dash?

         How could you compare the accuracy and precision of various timing devices?

         How could you determine which timing device might be best suited to a specific event?

         What kinds of backup timers or devices could supply evidence for your chosen timing device?

2.      Allow students to informally use or manipulate the various timing devices you have available—classroom clock, stopwatches, sensors—as they refine their questions. Then give them free rein in staging an event, such as racing mechanical fish in a long, shallow pan of water. Remind students of any constraints established as a class. Use the following or similar prompts to guide students in their investigations.

         We will stage our event by….

         The timing devices we will compare are….

         The variable we will test is….

         The variables we will control are….

         We will control these variables by….

         We will start/stop recording time when….

         We will conduct _____ trials because….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

3.      Before students carry out their investigation, encourage them to work collaboratively. Use prompts such as the following to help students determine their roles within their group.

         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….

4.      Students might “race” three mechanical fish against one another in multiple trials to determine which timekeeping device gives the most accurate and precise results. Students

(page 4)

 

 

 

might also include the data of their one fastest fish as a comparator against which measurements are judged. If so, encourage students to run multiple trials to find an average speed of that fish.

5.      In their races, students might add visual cues to the venue to improve the accuracy with which they use the timekeeping devices. They can also narrow their choices and finally conduct trials with several versions of the same device. Backup systems might include videos or stills from cell phone cameras and “impartial observers” or “judges” from another group.

6.      Students might continue their investigation by staging a similar event, such as racing plastic walking toys or changing the length of the original event to see how that impacts the accuracy and precision of their tools.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, encourage them to make videos of their observations that can be watched multiple times to help them with their redesign effort. Students should analyze their observations of both tracks in order to state one or more claims. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… we claim… because….

 

An example claim might be:

As evidenced bythe time data gathered during our trials, we claim that a stopwatch that measured to the tenths of a second was the best tool for the event because the reaction time of the individuals in our group did not enable them to use the stopwatch calibrated at one-hundredth of a second with any precision.

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their designs with others—such as classmates who designed the same or similar tracks, material they found on the Internet, the information found in the video, 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:

Our results differed from those of another group who were able to use the stopwatch calibrated to one-hundredth of a second with precision.

 

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. Ask groups to give short presentations about their investigations, and encourage questions from the audience on the group’s thinking process, as well as their procedures and results. Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

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

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

(page 5)

 

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about....

         I could have done a better job….

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

 

Inquiry Assessment

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

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Bellringer: Play the video, perhaps twice, as students settle. Encourage them to respond to this question: Which is more important in a timekeeping device—precision or accuracy? State two reasons for your answer. Use student responses to build background on for a class discussion regarding measurement.

 

Debate: Use the information in the video about using clocks that measure to one one-thousandth of a second in timed events during the 2012 Summer Olympiad to debate whether or not this degree of accuracy is appropriate given human response times. Challenge the class to hold a debate on the topic using a statement such as: Timing devices that measure to one one-thousandth of a second are necessary in establishing winning times. 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?

 

Using the 5E Approach?

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

Engage: In a lesson on measurement, use the video to introduce students to accuracy and precision of tools and the act of measuring. Remind them that “time” is a measurement in the same way that length and mass are. Discuss with them the implications of using imprecise tools during Olympic trials. What if tools with different degrees of imprecision were used in different heats? What if timings were inaccurate—could new Olympic or World records be trusted?

Explain: In a lesson on the human nervous system, replay the video segment from 2:31 to 2:40 and ask a volunteer to explain the purpose of having speakers behind each starting block, even though each runner is able to see the race official firing the starting pistol. Use the information to discuss how people react to a stimulus versus anticipating it, and the processes involved in how different senses react to stimuli. 

Elaborate: Once students understand the difference between accuracy and precision as the terms pertain to measurements gathered from various tools, ask them if either of these might be improved with practice in using the tools. Students should realize that accuracy could very

(page 6)

well be improved by making the same measurements over and over again. For example, simply ensuring that one is pushing the correct button to start or stop a clock improves accuracy. Precision, however, depends on the tool being used and the reproducibility of data with it.

 

Connect to … STEM

Technology

Have students develop timelines showing how tools used for timekeeping have changed over time. Students might focus on timing of events such as the Olympics or the Kentucky Derby, or broaden the timeline to include ancient tools such as Stonehenge and the Mayan calendar.

 

Use Video in Assessment

Replay the video segments 3:43 to 3:59 and 4:01 to 4:20 with the sound off two or three times then provide students with the following instructions.

Identify at least three science concepts that were considered in the engineering design of the technologies used to determine the times, and thus the winners, in Olympic swimming events.

 

 

 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: Measuring a Champion

Use this as a guide to evaluate the accuracy and precision of various tools and recommend backup systems. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Brainstorm with your teammates how you will construct a venue and redesign it after you have evaluated your time data from the first design. Take notes in your science notebook, which should include safety precautions as needed.

         The three events I am testing are….

         The timing devices I am using are….

         In staging my event, I should consider….

         My backup systems include….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations as detailed drawings that include labels and/or short videos.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your drawings and (if applicable) videos, 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

 

 

 

 

 

(page 7)

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your design with classmates who built the same or similar device. 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….

         I could have done a better job….

         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 stage an event and evaluate the accuracy and precision of various tools used to time the event and recommend backup systems. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How can you evaluate the accuracy and precision of timing tools available for specific events and determine appropriate backup systems in case of failure?

 

Design Investigations

What things should you consider when staging your event, evaluating your available timing tools, and recommending backup systems? Use these prompts to help you.

         I will stage my event by….

         The timing devices I will compare are….

         The variables I will test and control are….

         I will control these variables by….

         I will start/stop recording time when….

         I will conduct _____ trials because….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Consider using a cell phone camera to record your observations. Organize your time data in tables. The table below is an example that compares the time data on two different tracks.

 

 

(page 8)

 

Timing Fish Races

 

 

Trial

Time (s)

Tool:

 

Tool:

Tool:

Tool:

1

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your observations and then make one or more claims based on the evidence you observed. 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 evaluate your designs with classmates who made the same or similar tracks or with classmates who made very different tracks. 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….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about...

         I could have done a better job….

         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 has yes/no answer, is off topic, or otherwise not testable.

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

Question clearly stated, testable, and shows 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.

Clearly identified variables that are controlled as needed with steps and trials that result in data that can 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 are not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

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

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

Claim

No claim is made or claim has no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim is 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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