# Virtual Reality Physics

## Example Curriculum

Our simulations have been tested at Ohio State in several small-scale studies and were implemented for a large-scale test in our introductory Calculus-based physics sequence in the spring of 2004.

We have used the simulations as lecture demonstrations, as supplements to lab experiences, and on their own as the only source of instruction. Although they are flexible and can be used in many environments, it is our belief that the most natural place for the simulations is in physics labs.

In lab, they can be used as abstractions of common lab equipment such as low-friction carts and tracks. For example, it is easy to achieve uniform motion with any desired velocity in the simulation, but options for doing the same with real equipment are problematic (fan carts at terminal velocity are complex and not precisely adjustable, and cars with motorized wheels can't be easily nudged by external forces because of their gearing). Also, the friction between simulated objects and the ground can be adjusted far more precisely than that of real objects, or even turned off completely.

Below are some of the modules and labs we have used with the simulations. These modules have not been tested rigorously and should not be seen as "the" curriculum with which to use our simulations. They are provided primarily as examples of some of the activities we have asked students to perform.

• VR tutorials
• 1D Motion tutorial module (PDF) - Used as part of a series of one-on-one interviews for a study in spring of 2003, this activity for the 1D motion simulation addresses Newton's 2nd Law ideas, both with and without friction.
• Collisions tutorial module (PDF) - Used in a small-groups tutorial study in fall 2003, this activity uses the collisions program and focuses, primarily, on Newton's 3rd Law. It asks the students to repeatedly predict and observe the magnitudes of the forces felt by colliding carts in several different cases, such as one being more massive than the other, one having a stiffer bumper, and so on.
• VR-based Labs, spring 2004
• 1D Motion (DOC) - This is an adaptation of our department's pre-existing 1D Motion lab which makes use of a low-friction cart on a level track, accelerated by a hanging weight, and measured with a sonic ranger. Students are asked to apply forces to the simulated object such that they reproduce the motion graphs of the cart. Students also produce motions with the simulation that are impractical to achieve with the real equipment.
• Collision (DOC) - Again, this lab is a modification of a pre-existing lab, although in this case the changes are more substantial. Our colliding-cart lab was reworked to focus on the idea of impulse, and confirming that the time integral of F is the same as the change in momentum. With normal classroom equipment, this is nearly impossible as there is no way to measure the forces exerted during a collision. The VR simulation, however, is founded on dynamics and can output a record of the forces applied to each cart for the purposes of plotting or calculations.
• 2D Motion (PDF) - Unlike the previous two labs, this activity was written from scratch because we had no pre-existing lab dealing with the concept of centripetal force. Students use the simulation and a very low-tech "physical" analog of tapping checkers and ball bearings around circular paths with their pencil.