Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Logic Gates [Lab + Job]

When I began the patient siege of outfitting my lab at Rio Americano High School (c. 1990), I leveled up on batteries (C- and D-cells), bulbs (various incandescent flashlight "mini bulbs"), connecting wires (alligator clip "jumpers") and switches (single throw, single and double pole ceramic and copper). 

My wish/shopping list came from Paul Robinson's Conceptual Physics: A High School Program by Paul Hewitt 1/e Lab Manual. I had tagged each lab I hoped to do, then assembled a spreadsheet list of the apparatus I would need.

And as was the case with my mechanics apparatus and materials, I began developing other labs for my students to conduct with those materials.

This is one such case. When i was in high school, Boolean logic was part of the math curriculum. Truth tables were given as homework. It was all in the textbook. Now that computer programming is huge and the world runs on integrated circuits, it seems Boole has been left behind.

In any case, my students enjoyed this activity in the 1990s and beyond. In my circuits unit, there was a series (!) of labs that groups completed in succession. Sometimes the disparity in completion times was significant. For the fast groups, "Logic Gates" allowed them to enrich their circuit skills while other groups caught up on the required lab assignments.

In this activity, students design electrical circuits that will turn on a light only when certain conditions are met. These conditions are fundamental elements of Boolean algebra and appear in advanced circuit design and computer programming. Each case will require a specific wiring configuration.

A pre-lab worksheet (PhyzJob) introduces the basics of Boolean logic with scenarios of a cow being denied or allowed access to a grazing pasture by various configurations of gates. Hence the "cover art" for this resource: a cow I shot (with my camera) near Moab, Utah, c. 2006.

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