Stem The Tide

This App Turns Playgrounds Into The World’s Coolest Physics Lab

An app platform developed by the New York Hall Of Science may solve the age-old bane of science teachers: getting kids to enjoy learning scientific concepts. SciPlay uses an iPad to take video of kids at play and then lays something like a physics filter onto the action. In playback, kids can see and interact with animated visualizations that depict energy, force, acceleration and velocity; it brings concepts vividly to life that might otherwise die on a classroom whiteboard from lack of attention.

“Playgrounds are essentially machines to induce Newtonian physics on our bodies.”

By harnessing the natural tendency for play, SciPlay basically tricks kids into learning difficult-to-teach scientific concepts, which is devious but crucial. According a study published in the Journal Of Science Education And Technology, kids lose interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) over the course of middle and high school, but the U.S. Commerce Department predicts that jobs in STEM related fields will outpace all others in the next decade. So, this isn’t just about teaching physics – it’s about whether your kids get a job out of college or wind up living with you.

SciPlay isn’t intended be a museum exhibit. The app is testing in schools this fall with plans for wider deployment sometime next year – just don’t expect to necessarily see it in the classroom. “Playgrounds are essentially machines to induce Newtonian physics on our bodies,” SciPlay designer Jake Barton told Fast Company. “There’s math and science inside these things you already like to do. You just haven’t had a platform that can reveal it to you.” Hopefully, kids won’t notice their recess just got hijacked by the science teacher.

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