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Using Wii Technology and Experiential Learning to Teach Newtonian Mechanics to Rural Middle School Students

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 59(2): 387-395. (doi: 10.13031/trans.59.11349) @2016
Authors:   Joseph S. Dvorak, Tanya C. Franke-Dvorak, Shane Neel
Keywords:   Accelerometer, Experiential learning, Pre-engineering education, Secondary education, Sensors, Wii Remote.

Abstract. This study looked at the effects of an experiential learning activity using the accelerometer in the Wii Remote to teach basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics, e.g., acceleration, to middle school students in a rural school district. A major prerequisite for students at the mid-level in biosystems engineering programs is that they have a good knowledge of basic science, including physics. Education in these concepts must begin before college, such as at the middle school level. Improvements in science education are vitally necessary to achieve essential learning outcomes for middle school students in the U.S. and to prepare these students for college and STEM careers. The experiential learning activity evaluated in this study used hands-on experiments involving Wii Remotes in conjunction with a classroom lesson to teach basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics: acceleration, gravity, force, velocity, friction, speed, and motion. This activity used readily available equipment and was integrated into the classroom curriculum so that it has been possible to continue the activity every year without further support from the program that sponsored this study. The specific objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of this experiential learning activity with regard to learning outcomes and interest generated in science and engineering. Ninety-two percent (92%) of the students improved their knowledge from pre-test to post-test during the activity. When the students were surveyed about the activity, the kinesthetic/hands-on aspects of the project were the parts they liked most. Fifty-four percent (54%) of the students also indicated that the activity made them more interested in science and engineering. The positive outcomes from the activity combined with the readily available equipment make similar activities an excellent option for biosystems and agricultural engineering departments looking for outreach opportunities at the middle school level. This study showed that experiential learning, in middle school science classes, is significant in increasing students‘ knowledge of acceleration and interest in science and engineering.

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