Category Archives: Physics Demonstrations

Newton’s Laws

Finally! After months of waiting, I’ve finally put together another PwP video. Check out the video below for a few simple demonstrations of Newton’s laws of motion in the Puzzle Maker.

Hey Nathan! Don’t forget, you owe me a blog post. Tell us about your class!

How I determined that propulsion gel accelerates you to 12 m/s2:

First, I measured the time it took to reach top speed on propulsion gel.


Breaking the video down frame-by-frame, you see that you reach a top speed of 800 u/s in ~1.3s. Remembering that acceleration = (change in velocity) / time lets us calculate acceleration in game units. Then, I convert game units to meters by using 128 u = 1 panel and 1 panel = 2.4 m (described in depth here) to find that the acceleration due to propulsion gel is 12 m/s2.

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I’m at GLS in Madison, WI currently. Leslie Redd, Steve Isaacs and I will be hosting a workshop on teaching with Portal 2 at 2pm today. Tomorrow, we’re presenting at 4pm as part of the Computational Reasoning panel. Hope to see you there!

student projects part 2

Here’s another level a student created as part of my fall semester exam.

Though this level may not have been the most exciting, it still clearly demonstrates three different aspects of mechanics. Along with her excellent paper, this student earned a 100 for this part of her exam.

If you’re asking yourself why this level doesn’t seem more exciting, I completely understand. This level, like most of the others I received, is fairly plain. The demonstrations are obvious and appear piecemeal. I wish my students had created astounding, complex masterpieces with demonstrations that link multiple aspects of physics with possibly some puzzles thrown in. But, as anyone who has ever tried to make a level could tell you, making complicated levels is difficult. Even my simple demonstration of a physics problem took me a few hours of tinkering to work correctly. Around exam time, it’d be unreasonable of me to expect my students to spend hours fiddling with the Puzzle Maker especially when most of my students don’t have access to Portal 2 outside of school. So, I required very little of my students with the level building portion of their exam grade and instead focused on their descriptions (there was a classic multiple choice component to the exam too, in case you were wondering).

And, in case you haven’t looked recently, the media mentions page has been updated. I just added the IT Babble podcast at the top. They’ve got a quick segment about Portal 2 and education. While I don’t get a mention by name, they do a decent job of describing of how my kids have been using Portal 2 (starting with a bad description around 13:00 but a much better description coming in around 19:25). Being discussed on a podcast is definitely a pretty cool first, though hearing the way they describe what I’ve been doing (especially around 15:00 in the podcast) is probably a good impetus to make a few quick introductory videos about everything Portal 2 and education for the general public.

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ScienceOnline Wrap Up

I had a really great time at ScienceOnline! I enjoyed meeting everybody and having some fantastic discussions, especially at the #scigames session 🙂

I want to give a shout out to Melanie Stegman’s excellent website, the Science Game Center, where you can play and review some really innovative educational games. It’s worth checking out!

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