As we continue to incorporate technology that makes learning more efficient and relevant in our classrooms, many teachers are learning to embrace the technological advantage than many students now carry around with them: the smart phone or tablet. STEM professionals in every workplace use these devices to assist them during their work day, and educators need to teach their students to use turn these devices as a tool for learning rather than mere socialization. This article continues from part 1 where a few downloadable apps for free or low cost are described that teachers can preview during the last days of summer and consider these or similar programs to help their STEM students. The apps mentioned here are available on the Android platform, and for iPhone/iPad users there are generally equivalents available at the iTunes store.
This is a full featured, configurable periodic table of the elements useful for lots of STEM courses. While there is some value in memorizing the symbols and names of the most common elements as most chemistry teachers know, it is more important that students learn to use the properties of the periodic table when needed. Often students get stymied by the memorization requirements of the periodic table often assigned by teachers, and they never learn about the meaning of what is behind their placement on the table or the numbers that go with symbols. Periodic droid makes all this information handy enough so that student need not get bogged down if they forget the difference between the symbols for Manganese and Magnesium, but can make sense of the chemical properties and put them to use instead.
For robotics students, the Lego Mindstorms NXT microcontroller is one of the most popular stepping stones to the competitive arena. With a variety of programming languages available and an incredible array of compatible sensors and other hardware, the NXT is a robust and versatile way for STEM students to learn a lot of science and engineering in an engaging way. Controlling a robot via remote makes testing mechanical systems far easier than leaving it connected via cable to a computer, or walking around with a laptop in tow. Android phones can make use of this app and their built in bluetooth capability so that students can control their creations more conveniently and efficiently-with their own phones.
Using the old speed, distance and time formula is a great introduction to teaching student the mathematical relationship between these variables, but things get a bit tricky when we want to measure the speed of an actual moving object. Speed gun will give an average velocity of a moving object captured by the screen of a smart phone camera. Useful for any student project that is mechanized, or for verifying calculations. Really handy but it does require an input by the user of the fixed distance from the camera. That may or may not be convenient depending on how far away the object is from the user, but as they say, there is an app for that. Stay tuned for that and more in the next installment of Pocket Tools.