Kinematics
Crime Scene Investigator: Montreal – Murder You Solve
   
   
    Quenneville Julie, Collège de Valleyfield
November 17, 2008 
   
    In the fall of 2007, during the first Science Program’s 203-NYA-05 physics course, I had the opportunity to take part in the situational problem ‘Investigating a Crime Scene’ designed by Professor Nathaniel Lasry at John Abbott College.
The students liked the realism of this simulation exercise because they felt they had to solve a real problem. Although the first half hour was destabilizing for them (given that nothing was handed to them on a silver platter), the remainder of the exercise was stimulating, because in order to advance to the next level the students had to solve part of the mystery or at least establish their own methods to find a solution. They therefore had to proceed in stages.
I believe that this approach is very educational because students are led to realize that they have no other choice but to apply a scientific approach, introduce initial hypotheses, verify these hypotheses using the correct 2-dimensional kinematic equations, make deductions and conclusions, etc. Moreover, several students even realize that the correct use of approximations is necessary!
Overall, this activity is a very positive facet of this course (we allocated two 2-hour sessions), and given that the students also have to use data acquisition and analysis software programs in approximately ten other more traditional laboratory sessions, this activity forms an integral part of the students’ training.
I recommend this PBL problem to my colleagues.