A new teacher started in my school when I was in sixth grade. He taught seventh through twelfth grade so I didn't have much reason to interact with him. That was until softball season came around. He didn't live in the same small town as my school and he had a daughter the same age as me. Neither of our tiny towns had enough girls to field a softball team and he had the bright idea to combine the girls from each of our towns so that we could play. And that's when I got to know Mr. Ricky Block.
After that season, he noticed that a number of girls on the team had potential to play softball at a higher level. He approached a team in a town nearby and asked if we could come to the try out. They gave him a firm no. That didn't stop him, though. He decided to start his own team - a team that his daughter had no interest playing on - because he wouldn't allow a girl's potential to be limited by where she lived.
That first season was magical and the team he created blossomed into a powerhouse. Not only that, but it became a springboard for girls throughout rural Saskatchewan to play softball at a level they could have never dreamed of before. Some of us travelled to the United States to play ball; but, playing competitive ball wasn't the only gift he gave us.
For me, moving to the United States was the chance to grow into my own person. I quit ball and participated in show choir, conducted breast cancer research, interned at a pharmaceutical company, met my husband, graduated in Chemical Engineering, and started my own business. All of this happened because he wanted a bunch of twelve-year-old girls to have a chance to play ball.
But, Mr. Block wasn't just my coach. He was also my English teacher. I strongly disliked English and I never hesitated to let him know. "But you're such a great writer," he would say while I rolled my eyes. "Useless and boring," was always my rebuttal.
Earlier this week, I was substitute teaching in a fifth grade English class. They were learning predicates. "Pretty sure Mr. Block never taught us this," I thought. Although, I'm sure he did. I would have messaged Mr. Block later that day to give him grief, as usual. Except I couldn't - He died two days earlier.
That same fifth grade class was also interpreting poetry that day. It made me remember how Mr. Block used music to help us understand poetry: the symbolism, the figurative language, the creative use of rhythm and rhyme. I don't think I ever told him how much I enjoyed that. It would have destroyed my firmly held opinion that English was "useless and boring."
For the remainder of the day I reminisced about other ways he worked so hard to make learning "useless and boring" subjects fun and interesting. One of my favorites was "Jeopardy." He would split us into teams and we would compete by answering questions from different categories. All of the categories were related to the book we were reading in class. Mr. Block was also the computer teacher, which meant he always found ways to integrate elements from Computer class into English class. So of course, all of this was done in Powerpoint.
In true Mr. Block fashion, I created a template for you to create your own Jeopardy slide deck. It's my silly little way of remembering Mr. Block and everything he did for me in athletics, academics, and life. I think he would have gotten a kick out of it.
Has your child ever asked you what an engineer does in their job? You may have said something like, "They build things." Well, not exactly. Engineers develop solutions. An engineer is rarely the one physically putting the pieces together. What they do is identify a problem, develop a solution, then collaborate with others to implement it. Think of it like an architect. They develop the blue prints that are used by the construction company. The architect develops the idea of the building while the construction company builds the building. See the difference?
So how does an engineer do it? What skills do they need in order to be successful? What skills should I be nurturing if my child wants to be an engineer when they grow up? There are 4 basic skills engineers use everyday:
Kids can practice these skills using anything in their environment. Encourage their skill development by asking them the same probing questions that engineers use. Let's demonstrate this with an example: making toast.
You never knew there where so many questions about how to make toast! This may seem like overkill for such a simple process. A real-world example of this process is a Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA). This process is used extensively by NASA to evaluate every single piece of the space shuttle and identify ways it can fail. They use this knowledge to mitigate risks associated with loss of equipment, mission, or life. Click here for a detailed document explaining the FMEA process.
This summer, Elevate Tutoring Services is offering STEM Camp (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). This camp introduces students to the practical skills STEM professionals (like engineers) use everyday. Learn more about it here.
I'm sitting on my warm, snuggly couch watching the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the World Series. The players, coaches, and fans are shivering on my television screen. Today, we are going to discuss the physics of home runs; unfortunately, the cold weather makes it unlikely anyone will hit a dinger in tonight's game. This phenomenon is rooted in fluid dynamics. Cold air has a higher density which results in increased drag on the ball. However, that discussion is outside the scope of this article.
We are going to investigate how launch angle impacts whether you fly-out or jog around the bases. Recall that the trajectory of a falling object is parabolic; meaning, it has an x- and a y-component. Knowing that distance travelled by a falling object is related to the initial velocity (v), we can mathematically express each component of the velocity utilizing concepts from trigonometry:
We get the following expressions after plugging the expressions above into the formulas for a zero launch angle:
Now we can really start digging into our problem. Let's make the following assumptions:
You may notice we don't have a time component, which is a problem since we have 3 unknowns and two equations. However, we can overcome this by reframing our question: How far has the ball travelled when it reaches a height of 3 m? We ask this question because we want to find the ideal launch angle to hit a home run. So the mechanics look like this:
Therefore, under the assumed conditions a launch angle of 45 degrees would result in a home run! Let's look at a range of angles to find the "sweet spot:"
It appears when the ball is traveling at 35 m/s the ideal launch angle is between 45 and 50 degrees. The next question is: How would this change with varying initial velocities?
As expected, you have greater flexibility of launch angle with increasing velocity. So if you want to crush the ball, you better start pumping iron!
This week we find ourselves in the middle of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Post Season. In the flurry of excitement we hear commentators spouting off different stats. Since everyone "digs the long ball" you better believe you are hearing exit velocity and pitch speed stats.
The exit velocity is the speed of the ball coming off the bat and - quite obviously - the pitch speed is the speed of the incoming throw from the pitcher. These stats are important elements of predicting the characteristic of the hit ball, particularly the ball's distance travelled. However, there has been much debate on the importance of pitch speed on the ultimate exit velocity. Some argue the faster the ball comes in the faster the ball will go out. However, this is not the case. To understand the impact of pitch velocity we need to look at the momentum of the ball.
In this system we consider the forces acting on the ball. Consider the set-up below:
The impulse (I) is the average force (Fav) delivered to the ball over time (delta t). This is also considered the change in momentum (delta p). The change in momentum can also be expressed as the initial momentum subtracted from the resulting final momentum. When we combine these two equations with the formula for momentum (mass multiplied by velocity) we see a relationship between the force delivered by the batter (Fav) and the speed of the pitch (vpitch). Since we are primarily interested in how these pieces interact to influence the exit velocity, let's isolate the exit velocity:
You may be thinking to yourself, "Whoa, the pitch velocity is added to the force applied by the batter. So faster pitches should lead to faster exit velocities." However, I would remind you to remember our coordinate system. If our pitch velocity is 90mph, we would write vpitch = - 90mph since it is traveling in the negative x direction. Therefore, pitch velocity decreases the ultimate exit velocity.
To give you an example, let's assume two pitches are thrown and the batter applies the same force to each pitch. How would the exit velocity differ? (We will assume the Fav term will equal 200mph for the ease of the example.)
This phenomenon can be observed in the MLB stats. Visit Statcast to see that some of this season's hardest hit balls were on relatively slow pitches. Another theory MLB player's have is that since the ball is traveling slower the batter has a better chance at hitting the ball square. There is some truth to this in the likelihood of turning a pitch into a "dinger." However, the physics shows us that if both balls are hit in the same manner that the ball hit off the slower pitch will go faster.
Enjoy the rest of the Post Season with this tidbit of information. Ask your friends watching the game what they think would result in a harder hit ball, then impress them with your insight.
Go Cubs! :P
Taking a test can be exhausting. It is not just the written portion that is exhausting, but studying for it as well. Many people think that the key to getting a good test grade is your ability to remember all of the information taught in class -- but that's only partially true. Every single piece of information presented in class was done in such a way that you would understand a few core concepts. Therefore, the key to studying for a test is to identify those core concepts and ensure you know how to apply them.
Identifying the Core Concepts
No test can cover everything discussed during class. Think about it. One chapter in a textbook may have 30+ pages choke-full of facts, figures, and definitions. On the other hand, one test is roughly 2+ pages of questions and blank space. How do you know what will be on those few pieces of paper?
Start by creating an outline. Read the objectives of the chapter in the textbook. Skim through the chapter and your notes from class. Ask yourself these questions:
Review your homework once you have created an initial outline. However, don't begin by re-doing the problem! Instead, look at the problem and ask yourself what that question was trying to teach you. It should teach you some element from your outline.
By the end of this exercise you should have something that looks like this:
What You Know Vs. What You Don't
There is no use spending hours pouring over information you already understand. The time spent studying is inversely proportional to how well you know it:
Compare your outline and homework again. Your homework is an indicator of how you will perform on the test. Ask yourself:
So your outline should start looking like this:
Pink is the "danger zone." You are at a high probability of getting any question containing this concept wrong. Yellow is "proceed with caution." Meaning, you may be able to answer the question but you do not fully understand why. You may do well on the upcoming test, but classes build on the previous chapters. Therefore, you will likely suffer on the next exam if you don't shore that concept up now.
Now that you have a plan you can start studying! Re-reading the same information over and over isn't the best approach. Instead, pretend you are a teacher attempting to present this information to the class. How would you make sense of it? Re-write your notes. Once I finished studying, I had my own study packet that was a hybrid of the teacher's notes, my observations, and information from the textbook.
Another study technique is to restructure the information. For instance, in biology you may want to organize the animal kingdoms into a flow chart. Pick a different color for each group. Tell yourself why you are picking that color, "Plantae is green because it is the plant group; plants are typically green." Even if your teacher already gave you a flow chart, draw it yourself from scratch. Reason through why each group is there and what it contains. It forces you to think more deeply than just looking at words on a page.
Another study approach is to think of examples. One friend told me how she explained the concept of a mole from chemistry as "A mole is to atoms like a dozen is to eggs." She equated the scientific concept to something we are familiar with in our everyday lives. Another friend of mine felt he had a good handle on a concept if he could come up with a joke that made the professor laugh.
Whatever it is for you, find a way to make the material engaging.
Work with Friends
In the beginning it can be helpful to study with someone that has developed great study habits. They can share what works for them and give you new ways to look at material. Learning does not happen in a bubble.
It takes time to develop study habits. You may try everything outlined above and realize you need to tweak a few things to make it effective for you. That's fine. We all synthesize information differently because none of us have the exact same frame of reference.
We would never expect someone to become a professional athlete the minute they pick up the ball. It takes years of dedicated effort to learn the necessary skills. This holds true for academics as well. Keep practicing and don't give up!
You're sitting in Geometry class staring at a monstrosity of lines when the following question comes out of your teacher's mouth in a language closely resembling Greek:
Line segment AB is parallel to line segment CD. Line segment EF is perpendicular to line segment CD. Line segment GH intersects both line segments AB and CD at points M and N, respectively. Solve for angles x, y, and z.
"Gesundheit," you reply. Your teacher looks you in the eye. Before you can go on to suggest some excellent throat lozenges, your teacher says, "Please come to the board and solve this problem for the class."
You take a deep breath and walk toward the board. Everything you just learned about angles rushes through your mind. "Complimentary angles add to ninety. Supplementary angles add to one-eighty..." your thoughts race as you grab the blue marker. The marker remains hovering above the board. "I... I don't know where to start," you stammer.
"What do you remember about opposite angles?" your teacher hints. You stare back at her and realize how dry your mouth has gotten when you reply, "Angles across intersecting lines are equal?"
"That's right!" she says and draws the following picture on the board:
"There's a relationship you missed," your teacher replies while picking up the green marker, "Let's redraw what we were given using the relationships described in the problem."
"Now what do you see?" she asks.
"Angle y equals forty," you say, starting to feel less flustered.
"Exactly!" your teacher explains, "We knew that line segments AB and CD were parallel. That means if they are intersected by the same line you can relate the angles. Now, let me show you something else using Angle Addition." She grabs a purple marker and writes quantities in some of the blank spaces.
You immediately see it. "Angle z equals twenty!" you exclaim.
"Can you explain it to the class?" your teacher asks.
"Well, angle y is opposite of angle z and the given angle. So you could write it like this," you say while you write the following equation: 40 = z + 20. "Solving for z, we find that z equals twenty degrees."
"Perfect!" your teacher smiles. "Just one unknown left."
On a roll you say, "Since line segment AB is a straight line we know that these top angles have to equal one-eighty. They are supplementary angles." You write on the board:
"So angle x is sixty degrees!" you say triumphantly.
"Well done!" says your teacher. "Class, do you see how redrawing the problem helps prevent yourself getting overwhelmed by a flurry of lines?"
"Does this only work for opposite angles?" a classmate asks.
"No, you can use this on any question. Check this out."
The class is buzzing. You smile because looking at all of those lines made you dizzy.
"Looking at the whole problem can sometimes distract you from the simple relationships," your teacher explains. "Try working through tonight's homework problems using this method. You may have to draw a few different simplifications before you find one that works, but don't give up! After enough practice you won't need to draw the simplifications, but they start to jump out at you."
So you're working hard on your physics homework and you go to check your answers. You notice the answer key has your same answer... But with the opposite sign. What's the deal with that? Gravity is always negative, isn't it? Positive gravity? Why?! How?! Well young physics student, you are forgetting a very important physics rule: always define your coordinate system!
Huh? What's that?
The coordinate system defines the cardinal directions of your problem. They are typically labelled as x, y, and z with the direction of the arrow indicating the positive direction. In your math courses you pretty much always see it like this:
However, in physics you are free to define the directions in anyway you see fit. This means you can define your coordinate system in such a way that the signs and numbers are simple. So you might end up with a coordinate systems like this:
Okay, but what does this have to do with positive gravity? Let's look at an example!
You are standing on a cliff and kick a ball off of it. It free falls for 8 seconds. How far has the ball fallen?
Some textbooks have a negative sign in front of the gravity term and make you memorize that it is for a specific coordinate system and that gravity is always positive, yada yada yada. I find it much easier to pay attention to your coordinate system and keep all the terms in the formula positive. Your numbers will work themselves out and makes you think about what's going on.
Good luck on the rest of your homework!
It is not unusual to be hyper focused on athletics in this country. We start children in competitive leagues at younger and younger ages. We buy them the latest equipment. We drive hours for them to play in tournaments for exposure to college recruiters. We enroll them in camps to learn from some of the best coaches. All of this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I played a lot of sports growing up and started playing softball competitively at thirteen. It taught me discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, and countless other life lessons. That's why parents help their children get deeply involved in sports. Unfortunately, effort in school work doesn't always get the same level of attention. This is more of an accidental reality than a well-thought-out decision. Sports are an easy way for parent's to be involved in their children's lives. Pop culture capitalizes on the entertainment value, making sports an accessible form of entertainment the whole family can enjoy. We need to re-adjust our thinking so that sports and education are valued in a similar way.
My husband loves playing baseball. His dad is not very good at catch, but that never stopped them from playing together. His dad's lack of throwing abilities did not hinder my husband's ability, but it also didn't help him become better. That's why his dad paid for my husband to play in a league. There was a patient and knowledgable coach that taught the kids the rules of baseball and ran drills to improve their skills. A "tutor" is an educational "coach." They are proficient in the subject and work with your child to grasp the concept.
Sports doesn't stop with your YMCA league. High performance athletes seek a wide variety of help to step up their game. There are sports psychologists, physiotherapists, personal trainers, and nutritionists that assist the coach in shaping the athlete. Why do we expect school to be the be-all-end-all for our child's education? If an athlete has a prayer in making it big, they need a support system that helps them hone each aspect of their game. Think of a tutor as a necessary part of your child's support team. The teacher's do there best to educate your child, but there are a lot of children in the room. For some students they go too fast, for others they go too slow. That's where a tutor can go at the pace specifically needed for your child.
Professional athletes are not the only people that make a lot of money. Athletics are not the only form of scholarships. There are more high-paying careers and academic scholarships than there are positions on a professional sports team. Anyone with a child has worried about the costs of college tuition. In-state tuition at Kansas State University is estimated at just over $20,000 per year . That's $80,000 for a four year degree. Considering a university degree is a near necessity in today's job market, this potential $80,000 bill isn't outside of your horizon. But, you could get one year nearly paid for simply by having an ACT score of 30 and GPA of 3.6 . Not a bad return on investment if you spent $1000 on tutoring and got a $14,000 scholarship in return - and that's for a scholarship given simply by being eligible when you apply to university. Think of the others that have academic requirements that you apply for on the side.
It is easy to justify costs for our children's sports. It's an easy way for parents to spend time with their children. Popular culture idolizes athletes and often reports on their successes. Don't forget that education can be just as valuable to your child's growth and well-being. Similar to when you reach out to a coach to teach a sports-related skill, you may want to reach out to a tutor to help with their academic skills.
 "Tuition and Costs." Kansas State University, 29 Jul. 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
 "Scholarships." Kansas State University, 01 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." We've heard this saying often. Some obstacles in life cannot be changed. Instead, you have to make the best of the situation. This is great advice, as long as the obstacle you face is truly unchangeable/unavoidable. Sometimes, we throw up our own roadblocks. These self-made roadblocks are built on a foundation of self-doubt and fear of failure. It gives us something to blame when we don't succeed. Don't waste your time building roadblocks, instead focus that effort on succeeding at what you are afraid of doing.
To tear down your self-made roadblock you need to figure out why you built it in the first place. Doubt fuels our insecurities and validates our excuses. Doubt plays a feedback loop of "you can't do that, so don't even try." In tenth grade, my math teacher (Mrs. R) went out on maternity leave. In Canada, maternity leave lasts a year. I had Mrs. R for math since seventh grade. I knew how she taught, how she tested, and with her math was easy. That all changed with the substitute (Mr. M). He didn't simplify the material like Mrs. R. She made it so easy to understand, why did he have to make it so difficult? Both the grades of my classmates and myself started to fall. I thought, "Why even try? It's obvious I'm having trouble because of him. He needs to change." I threw my hands up and blamed Mr. M for my problem. I started building a wall.
It was after yet another test and my grades slipping even lower, that I finally realized Mr. M wasn't going anywhere. I needed to change if I really wanted to get a good grade. That realization broke my cycle of blame and put the responsibility back on myself. After all, is it Mr. M's fault if I never tried to understand it for myself? No. He was at a different level than me and I wasn't trying to join him. Instead, I sat down and built a wall around myself, refusing to risk climbing to the next level and falling.
I started bringing my textbooks home - something I only did to complete homework problems. I read the chapters he covered. I re-wrote the notes and added my own thoughts based on what I had read in the textbook. The next test came back and... It was the grades I got with Mrs. R! It was well worth the effort. I started to really enjoy Mr. M's teaching. He pushed me to a deeper understanding and ultimately a deeper love of the learning process. It was the first time something in class didn't come easily. It was the first time I had to earn it - and it felt good.
After years of reflection, I realized I bogged myself down in believing that someone "naturally smart" should never struggle with a concept. That meant I was stupid, right? Not exactly. It meant I was pushing myself beyond what was comfortable. But, if I worked on building a bridge rather than building a wall, eventually I would cross the chasm and learn something new. This would lead to new land to discover and more chasms to cross. Learning was an adventure!
We all encounter that concept that stretches us further than we have ever been before. For some that's in elementary school, or high school, or even college! But eventually it happens. You come across something that you don't intuitively understand and your normal effort isn't enough to figure it out. Instead of building a wall, be thankful for an opportunity to push yourself and get to a new level of understanding. You will love the view!
It happens to all of us. We reach into the fridge and pull out the ketchup bottle only to that find the remainder of ketchup is clinging for dear life at the bottom of the bottle. There are two well known practices of getting the remainder of the ketchup out of the bottle. Either you place the bottle on its head and wait for gravity to do its job, or you shake the ketchup down. But, I'm here to tell you there is a third and more efficient way to get that last bit of ketchup out of the bottle.
Centripetal force is plainly defined at the force exerted on an object towards the center when moving in a circular motion. Centrifugal force is the opposing force exerted on an object to move it away from the center. Both of these forces are required to understand what is happening in our ketchup bottle.
This causes an unbalanced force to act on the ketchup. Remember what Newton's First Law states? "An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction and speed unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." Therefore, the ketchup accelerates away from the center of circular motion until it hits the lid, which subsequently exerts the centripetal force towards the center of the circular motion to stop the flow of ketchup.
Give this technique a "whirl" the next time you need to get the remaining bit of ketchup out of the bottle and impress your friends and family with your knowledge of Physics!