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Transforming teaching labs with physical-computing to control, measure, and analyse

This learning and teaching innovation project was funded by the Teaching Development Fund in 2020/21.

Project status

In progress

Duration

Project started on 1 Jul 2021

Project leader: Dr Peter Sloan, Senior Lecturer, Department of Physics

This project, which was awarded funding by the Teaching Development Fund (TDF), aims to embed computing into the regular undergraduate physics teaching laboratories by integrating existing teaching experiments with new Arduino microprocessors, and by developing student centric teaching resources and case studies of what students can do given time, tools and freedom.

Students often appear confined to the exact content of a lecture, or the particular apparatus of a laboratory. These barriers prevent a deeper understanding of a subject in terms of how things are connected; often, the same things appear in many different guises. With the advent of cheap and powerful computing, and Python, a free computing language, it is possible to embed computing in nearly all aspects of the University of Bath's Physics undergraduate degree. Students can plot equations, play with limits, analyse data, create reports, numerically integrate problems and check with pen and paper. Computing is a liberating and democratising tool, where one tool, one language, can be used in a myriad of ways – it is the key to allowing students to remove any barriers themselves.

This embedded computing approach has already begun within the Scientific Computing strand of the Physics undergraduate degree course and some regular lecture courses. Through this project, we want to bring that revolution to the experimental laboratories. The integration of computing into formal teaching experimental laboratories may be relevant across a variety of teaching laboratories at the University, from Chemistry to Computer Science and Engineering.