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Programming Ozobots for teaching astronomy

M. Balaton, J. Cavadas, P. Simećo Carvalho, J. J. G. Lima

Abstract
Experimental teaching is essential for a good understanding of science, especially on Physics. Practical activities play an important role for engaging students with science, mainly when they interact directly with equipment, collect experimental data with computers and/or use interactive software for data analysis. In this work, we present the use of low-cost mini-robots as an 'object-to-think-with' for teaching and learning with technology. The activity concerns programming the robots to make them run in circular paths, record videos of their trajectories and analyse them with Tracker Software, to boost the study of Astronomy contents. This kind of practical activity develops multiple skills in students and is usually very well accepted because it involves robots, programming, manipulating technology and for raising topics that are difficult to understand in real-life observations, making them cognitively accessible to the vast majority of students. In this practical activity, students are asked to create the robot programming code and make a video recording (with a smartphone) of the robots' trajectories, mediated by the teacher, who assists in the construction of the experimental activity and analysis of the data obtained. The results will allow students to understand Kepler's laws of planetary motion and why some planets seem to have an apparent retrograde motion as seen from the Earth, a problem that arose in IV BC and was only officially solved by the Copernicus heliocentric model, published in 1543, the year of his death.

Keywords
block programming; robots in science; kinematics; astronomy; apparent retrograde motion; Kepler’s laws; Kepler's laws

Physics Education
Volume 56, Number 4
2021 July

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia