Modeling is an essential skill for the career physical scientist or engineer. One approach that attempts to integrate this element of critical thinking into the laboratory environment is the modeling framework lab. In this style of lab exercise, students construct a model of both the measurement apparatus and the phenomenon under investigation. A key challenge to implementing this approach in introductory mechanics courses is that the use of electronic data acquisition modules obfuscates the process by which primary measurements are made and interpreted. Conversely, the use of simple analog devices does not adequately prepare students for scientific investigations in the “real world.” Here, the ArduinoTM microprocessor is considered as a platform to bridge this pedagogical gap. Student survey data regarding perceived value of the labs, force concept inventory testing, and analysis of final exam scores were used to assess the efficacy of this approach. Results from this style of lab were compared to “task-measurement” style labs, in which students followed a set of instructions and utilized commercial “black box” data acquisition tools. ArduinoTM-based modeling framework labs showed robust increases in both perceived and measured quantitative skills compared to “task-measurement”-taught sections. These data support the use of open-source microprocessors as a powerful pedagogical platform for offering modeling framework labs in introductory mechanics.

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