PHYSICS VR CASE STUDY: Magnificent Desolation (Student Age 9 -13)
“Beautiful, beautiful, magnificent desolation’ Buzz Aldrin’s description of his impression of the lunar surface is not as iconic or as remembered as Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step…’ As a child, I watched the moon landings and was in awe of the astronauts, bouncing around the surface of the moon, seemingly effortlessly and with such grace (with the occasional mishap). That powerful experience made me question what was happening. Why were they walking like that? When we created our first lunar VR experience with full physics emulation, I couldn’t wait to have my virtual moment on the moon! Now, let’s figure out why things are so different on the lunar surface and how would it be to walk on the planets of our solar system!”
Allow students to virtually walk on the moon inside ClassVR Space Adventures or LunarVR. Talk to the students about how they moved around the surface and how different it was. Students should be made aware of the difference between weight and mass, as well as the relationship between gravity and weight. Weight is a force based on the effect of gravity on an object’s mass. Weight is measured in newtons (N). The gravitational field strength of the Earth is 10 while the moon’s is 1.6. Weight in newtons can be calculated by multiplying mass (in kg) by the gravitational field strength (N/kg). Students should research the gravitational field strength of all the planets in the solar system to discover their weight in newtons on each of them. Additionally, students can setup a CoSpaces simulator using the physics engine to alter mass and gravity, noting the effects on objects.
IMPACT ON LEARNING
ClassVR allows pupils to pull on a virtual spacesuit and walk in the footsteps of Armstrong and Aldrin. That ability to experience something out of the ordinary has a powerful effect on learners. The excitement and pull of that experience can create a strong desire to learn more and to take that learning further. The ability to then create a virtual environment in CoSpaces and alter gravity and mass add a further immersive layer. Activities like this, a blend of approaches covering science (physics), computing and maths are held together by the shared experience of pupils who have just ‘walked on the moon’.
- To understand the difference between mass and weight.
- To understand the relationship between gravity and weight
- To calculate weight in newtons.