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Teaching Physics Blog

AP Physics:The Physics of Osmos

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Learning Objectives

• Students will be able to recognize and explain physics concepts in novel situations.

Assessment Type
This activity asks students to recognize physics concepts within the video game Osmos. Students are then asked to use the video game to demonstrate and explain the concept that they have identified. This activity can be used as a formative assessment of student understanding or as a summative assessment after a comprehensive introduction to kinematics or momentum.

Assignment Details
  • Students should then download and install the free demo of Osmos, which is available on a variety of platforms including Windows and Mac computers (http://www.hemispheregames.com/osmos/). Osmos is also available for purchase through the iTunes App Store for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
  • Students will experiment with the game, looking for physics concepts that could be demonstrated using the video game as their laboratory.
  • Using screen capture images or free video screen capture software (such as Jing: http://www.techsmith.com/jing/), students can create their own video demonstration and post it to YouTube as a response to the original "Physics of Osmos" video.

Instructor's Notes
  • There are a wide variety of concepts that can be demonstrated with this game. If students' need help identifying possible topics, direct them toward: Newton's 1st, 2nd, or 3rd law, elastic collisions, inelastic collisions, conservation of momentum, or rocket propulsion.
  • Using later levels of the game, students can also explore gravitation and orbits, these levels could be used as a demonstration of Kepler's Laws, uniform circular motion, or simple harmonic motion.
  • As a possible follow-up to this activity, include screenshots from Osmos on an end-of-unit test or final exam. Ask students to solve a problem involving the glowing orbs or to explain a concept in the context of the game.
  • The following could be used as a simple rubric for evaluating this student project:
    (10 pts) - Physics concept is named and explained in the video
    (5 pts) - Concept is convincingly demonstrated using the game
    (3 pts) - Video is clear, concise, and easily understandable
    (2 pts) - Student showed creativity or insight in their demonstration

Links
How to Make a Playlist on HippoCampus:
A four-minute tutorial video
HippoCampus Physics Study Group on OpenStudy.com:
NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty:
AP Physics B Site from Dolores Gende, AP Central's content advisor for physics since 2004:
College Board's AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism Course Home Page:
College Board's AP Physics C: Mechanics Course Home Page:
Table of Information and Equation Tables for the AP Physics Exams:

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