Midterms mean study time and quizzes, but for the physics 104 general science course midterm was time for teamwork. Mick Davis, physics professor, assigned a midterm group project to build a functioning hydraulic arm out of cardboard and hot glue that could curl weight.
To build the arms, the class used instructions from the textbook that Davis has been writing himself. Davis’s book has recently been featured in the first issue of the International Journal of Open Educational Resources.The textbook teaches physics principles through the functions of the human body relating to force, balance, torque, levers, and mechanics.
The arm had to meet the same range of motion as a regular arm with a 2:3 size scale of the average human arm. It also had to lift 1:100 of the weight that the average human can curl.
Davis created the project while writing the textbook. He wanted a project that would relate to class concepts with a hands on activity. He based the idea on an instructional YouTube video called “How to Build a Hydraulic Powered Robotic Arm from Cardboard.”
As the students went about building their arms, Davis was surprised by the range of differences from students doing the same project. Everyone’s design was different, even though everyone was going off of the same video.
All the students reacted differently to the project as well. Jamie Brown said that the project was a “positive experience all the way around.” Students did experience stress as they went through the process. Many students began the project confused and frustrated, but from every group was able to build their arms accurately.
Davis felt that the project was a success because the students were able to build the project accurately and visually see their knowledge. Next year, Davis said that he will do the project again but will change some details to make the project more beneficial.
“It is important for students to work together and students to have time to work alone to know that they are learning and retaining the information from class,” Davis shared.