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Capstone updates

September 20, 2011

We’re 4 weeks into class, and I must say that capstones are coming along quite nicely for my students. Overall, I’m finding this idea to be great way to encourage students to go deeper, and so far, these conversations have been deep, enriching and not at all focused on grades (hooray).

I don’t think these capstones are quite ready for primetime, but if you want to check them out and offer them a bit of feedback, that would be awesome.

  • Colliding Buggy Program: Jonathan has gone and modifed his vpython buggy program to model the collision of two cars released from opposite sides of the track. He demonstrated his understanding by making a Jing vodcast of his work (This is an awesome idea I got from Andy Rundquist, and it really is the best way to assess programming I’ve ever seen). The amazing thing about this is he’s had almost no instruction in programming. All students have done is the first CVPM assignment in computational thinking, and I’ve answered a few questions via email. They’ve figured out how to add a second function to the PhysGraph object by reading the documentation themselves—holy cow!
  • Measuring the speed of an airplane with Expedia: Marshall has taken the Dan Meyer airplane problem I presented as a possible Capstone and is working to make it his own by trying to see if he can find a difference in the speed of eastbound vs westbound flights. This is his third draft of this problem already. I can’t remember doing three drafts of anything in high school.
  • Frisbee dynamics: Whit is deeply interested in understanding the physics of frisbee flight, so he’s gone and filmed himself throwing a frisbee and analyzed it in tracker, which he learned to use completely on his own. He’s asking more great questions than I can begin to answer. And the thing that boggles my mind is that when I try to teach students tracker, they always find it so difficult to use and have so much problem. Here, I say, check out the directions, I bet you can figure it out, and somehow he does. Is it the extra incentive of student working on a problem he really cares about?
  • Colliding Buggies, algebra edition: Elizabeth has gone and written up a very detailed analysis of the two colliding trains/buggies problem, including solving the problem symbolically, and then coming to some very interesting conclusions about whether the collision between the trains will occur in the past, future or never, based on the speeds and starting positions of the trains.
  • More buggy collision simulations: Rose has also re-written a vpython program to model the collision between two buggies. Again, some awesome work with Jing.

Four weeks into class and 14% of my students have already published some significant progress toward completing a capstone. At least half my class has had some sort of discussion about cool things they’d like to do, and I’ve been blown away by my student’s interest and engagement with these ideas.

Since I know at least a few other teachers are thinking of doing this, it really makes me think we need some sort of aggregation site so that all of these projects can be collected in one place. What do you think?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank Noschese permalink
    September 21, 2011 2:27 pm

    Yes! Please!

  2. September 21, 2011 3:30 pm

    Hm. Maybe an aggregation site could be a place where students use someone else’s data and build on it to create a new investigation. Or give them an idea of what types of problems they’re interested in. Or a way for students to “peer-review” each other’s publishing…

  3. October 18, 2011 12:36 pm

    I’m starting to post capstone proposals, too; any progress on a single site?

    • October 26, 2011 10:09 pm

      Yep—I just finished registering and putting up a basic wordpress site at I’m going to write up some questions very soon and we can figure out where to take it from here.

      • October 26, 2011 10:14 pm

        You are a scholar and a gentleman, sir…

        • October 26, 2011 10:46 pm

          Hey, no problem. All it’ll cost ya is posting some of those awesome videos you’ve got locked away on your computer. 🙂

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