Sarah Gergen’s eighth-grade science students at Irving Middle School are learning about measuring the motion of objects - speed, velocity, acceleration - as well as electromagnetic energy and the electromagnetic spectrum. On a recent afternoon, they witnessed a real-world application of those lessons, thanks to a surprise visitor to their classroom.
“So who here thought they were going to listen to me today?” asked Irving School Resource Officer Andrew Nichols.
Nichols took a break from his usual duties - which are split between Irving and Pound Middle School - to visit Gergen’s classroom and talk about lidar and radar guns and how they’re used to measure the speed of passing vehicles.
After a short time inside, Nichols, Gergen and the students moved outside to the corner of Van Dorn and S. 23rd streets. Donning yellow vests and standing safely off the street, students took turns clocking passing vehicles with both a radar and a lidar gun. Most drivers adhered to the 35 miles-per-hour speed limit - or they did once they saw Nichols and the students.
Gergen used the same lesson years ago when she taught at Lefler Middle School, but on a much smaller scale with toy cars. She thought this life-size version was even better.
“The students seemed to enjoy the opportunity and certainly learned about the technology to record speed. In the future, I look forward to the opportunity to develop the lesson even further - perhaps for the students to have a chance to speculate and explore how the radar and lidar guns might work without researching, share their ideas, then later research the technology,” Gergen said.
One of the students, Raquel, said the lesson was very helpful. “I liked using the radar gun because you got to see how it worked and you can’t really learn that in a textbook.”
Another student, Grant, also learned a lot from the hands-on lesson. “I learned about the path that the radio waves take and the path that the light of the laser takes. The lidar travels in a straight line, but the radar spreads out and bounces back to give you the speed.”
Gergen also appreciated another lesson the students learned. “Specifically, for students to be able to work with Officer Nichols and enjoy him as a resource for something other than safety and security.”
Published: January 24, 2019, Updated: February 21, 2019