Measurements Using EverydaY Technologies (MyTech)

DELTA staff collaborated with Dr. Colleen Countryman, a physics education researcher, to design and develop a mobile app named Measurements Using EverydaY Technologies (MyTech), which is intended to provide meaningful laboratory experiences to students in PY 206 (originally PY 205) Physics for Scientists and Engineers I, while reducing the cost of departmental resources. By visually representing and recording data provided by the smartphone’s internal accelerometer and gyroscope, MyTech allows students to explore, measure and analyze physical motion using their own smartphones. Although there are pre-existing apps with similar functionalities, MyTech was specifically designed to address instructional and technological challenges emerged from PY 206 labs using pre-existing apps.

Instructional Challenges

  • Extraneous features of pre-existing apps increased the cognitive load for students.
  • Students had difficulty recognizing the internal axes of the smartphone.
  • Students were confused about which axis they should use to record data during an experiment.
  • Students spent needless amounts of time graphing the data in Excel which they were unfamiliar with.
  • Students had little understanding about the data collection mechanism of the smartphone

Highlights and Solutions

  • Interface and functionality design are simplified and focused on features commonly used in introductory physics labs.
  • A small legend of a smartphone with three axes provides a visual aid for students to see where the axes are.
  • Interactive axes buttons allow students to turn off certain axes in the live graph and the legend to focus on the axis-of-interest during experiments.
  • The browse feature of recordings with graph allows for at-a-glance data preview and basic analysis.
  • Visualization of a spring model helps students explore and understand the physics concepts and data collection mechanism behind the app.
  • Help articles provide supporting materials such as app tutorials, concept explanations, experiment scenarios, and data analysis procedures.

Evaluation Findings

  • Students found the MyTech app to be novel, with their comfort level increasing with use.
  • Students commented on their experience with the app as “great” and “enjoyable” in end-of-lab surveys. They liked the distinctive functionality of the app and described the app interface as user-friendly.
  • Students felt the app made learning and the experiment process easier, helped them understand the basic physics concepts, and reduced human error.

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