Office of University Communications & Marketing

UNA Undergraduates Use Rocket Launch to Research Teaching Methods
Sep. 28, 2012



FLORENCE, Ala. – This Sunday, two teams of UNA undergraduate researchers, with their professors, will execute a six-month-long project testing non-traditional methods of teaching projectile motion, including a rocket launch and computer-simulated rocket launch.

The teams’ objective is to investigate whether the use of a physical model assists in understanding the concept of projectile motion. Prior to the launch and simulation, the groups will design a lesson plan to present to high school and college students. To measure their understanding of the concept, they will conduct a pre-test and post-test and compare the results. They will then use statistical analysis to determine if either of the two methods of teaching is more effective than a traditional lecture.
 
“The groups are attempting to answer a similar question, just on slightly different tracks,” said Dr. Cynthia Stenger, interim chair of the UNA Department of Mathematics. “The group planning the rocket launch will teach algebra students at the high school level, while the group doing the simulation is geared toward calculus at the college level.”
 
The research idea originated in April from Stenger and computer science professor James Jerkins and mathematics professor Jessica Stovall. Jerkins, Stenger and Stovall each recruited two students to participate in the experiment, dividing them into two groups. Each group includes a computer science student, a mathematics student and a mathematics education student.
 
“We identified students who showed some interest and aptitude for their particular subject, and just asked them to be involved,” Jerkins said. “We’re interested in working with anyone who is interested in doing undergraduate research.”
 
The rocket launch will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at Diebert Park on Cox Creek Parkway in Florence. The event is open to the public.
 
The research teams will present their findings at the Second Annual Kennesaw Mountain Undergraduate Mathematics Conference, a conference supported by the Mathematical Association of America, in October.
 
The student participants include:
 
Software simulation of flight as a tool for teaching projectile motion
Ben Moore, of Loretto, Tenn.
Baillie Haddock, of Waterloo
Patrick Lindsay, of Guntersville
 
Model rocket flight as a tool for teaching projectile motion
Ryan Paine, of Florence
Elly Couch, of Florence
Atticus Wright, or Loretto, Tenn.