Saturday, February 26, 2011

Curriculum Resource: Software to Create Your Own Solar System

As I mentioned in my article about the New Zealand Charity Bundle from CurrClick, we are fortunate enough to live in the same region as Science Jim, who is an exemplary physics teacher.  He took a physics class with him last year that was supplemented with programming the physical phenomenon that was led by Maria of Natural Math.  It was a really good class, and I think my son learned a lot.

He has been really fascinated lately with one of the resources he discovered through taking that class.  He has been using the software, called About My Solar System from the PHet project at the University of Colorado.  The intention of the software is to provide students with the ability to run interactive simulations of physical phenomemon using computer.

In the program my son is using lately, one can choose a planet obiting the sun.  Then you can add a moon, and see what that does to the orbit.  But then you can have another moon show up, or another planet, or even another sun--all of which effect the student's solar system.  It allows the user to adjust all sorts of thing--trajectory, speed, storage weight, etc.--to see what happens in terms of its orbit.  Plus, it keeps the patterns of all the orbits, which after a while ends up look like some cool spirograph art.

It's a good program and we recommend it to all.

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