# 6 PhET Interactive Simulations

Elena Chudaeva

Here are some facts about PhET Interactive Simulations for Science and Math:

1. The resource was founded in 2002 by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman.
2. It creates free interactive math and science simulations.
3. PhET sims are based on extensive education research.
4. PhET sims engage students through an intuitive, game-like environment where students learn through exploration and discovery.

In the following sections we will briefly discuss available teacher supports, accessibility of PhET simulations, and a sample activity. Thus, accessibility should be a key factor when selecting new virtual science labs or simulations. Watch A Brief Introduction to PhET video.

# Teacher Support

Teachers have access to simulation-specific tips and video primers, resources for teaching with simulations, and activities shared by our teacher community. Watch a video on using PhET for guided inquiry: Tim Herzog Discusses Using PhET for Guided Inquiry in College Chemistry.

# Accessibility and PhET

All instructional materials must be accessible to all learners. PhET accessible interactive simulations include verbal descriptions and feedback, the use of sound and music to represent foundational science and mathematical relationships, and alternative navigation that moves beyond mouse or touch inputs. Watch this video for more details: Accessibility and PhET.

## SAMPLE ACTIVITY

Energy Skate Park Basics

Energy Skate Park Basics simulation is a particularly helpful review of the concepts of kinetic and potential energy, forces, and motion.

What to do:

1. Go to Intro

• In the top right corner select Bar Graph and Speed.
• Start the simulation.
• Observe changes in energy and in speed.
• Change mass.
• Observe how this affects energy and speed.

• Have you noticed that when kinetic energy increase, potential energy decrease? Good!
• What happens with mechanical energy?
• Thermal energy?
• Was there anything surprising?
• Is energy conserved in this simulation? Why?

2. Go to Friction

• In the top right corner select Bar Graph and Speed.
• Start the simulation.
• Observe changes in energy and in speed.
• Change friction.

• How does this affect motion, speed, and energy?
• Have you noticed that now we have thermal energy with friction? Good!
• What happens with mechanical energy?

Reflection questions:

• Was there anything surprising?
• Is energy conserved in this simulation? Why?
• Can we get rid of friction? Why?
• How can we reduce friction?

Come up with 2 examples of situations when force of friction is useful and 2 examples when it is harmful.

P.S.: This activity, developed for students taking a general education Physics college course, can be done as a group activity during class time, or it can be assigned for homework. It can also be used to facilitate discussion about the concepts.