Angry Birds in the Physics Classroom

I recently blogged that you can now play Angry Birds in your web browser. This opens up all sorts of video analysis possibilities for physics lessons and assessment. Students can easily make their own videos or you can pre-record your own. Videos can be recorded using Jing, Screencast-O-Matic, or Camtasia Studio. Analysis can be done in Logger Pro or Tracker.

Here are some possible investigations to carry out (shared by Michael Magnuson on the WNYPTA email list):

1. Make a reasonable estimate for the size of an angry bird, and determine the value of g in Angry Bird World. Why would the game designer want to have g be different than 9.8 m/s²?   Download Angry Birds video.

2. Does the blue angry bird conserve momentum during its split into three?  Download Red and Blue Birds video.

3. Does the white bird conserve momentum when it drops its bomb? Why would the game designer want the white bird to drop its bomb the way that it does?  Download White Bird video.

4. Describe in detail how the yellow bird changes velocity.  You will need to analyze more than one flight path to answer this question.  Download Yellow Birds video.

5. Shoot an angry bird so that it bounces off one of the blocks. Determine the coefficient of restitution and the mass of the angry bird.  Download Red Birds and Falling Block video.

You can download each video using the links above or get them all here.

Other posts with ideas about how to use Angry Birds in physics class:

How have you used (or will use) Angry Birds in the classroom?

UPDATE 12-28-2011: Our class has been featured on CUNY-TV’s “Science and U!” Jump to 10:25 in the video below:

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58 responses to “Angry Birds in the Physics Classroom

  1. This is such a great idea, and one that will really be relevant to the students. They will be having fun and learning, using something that is important to them. This demonstrates a commitment to using technology in a classroom to enhance learning, not just for the sake of using it. I’m taking a technology in education class and found this on a blog site. I hope it’s okay, I shared it with the Physics teachers in my school.

  2. I am planning to add some of these ideas to my class for next year since my grade 11s will have Macbooks. I am thinking of putting screenshots into something like Geometer’s Sketchpad so students can make easy measurements and even overlay a grid if they like. What do you think?

    • I’m not familiar with Sketchpad, so I’m not sure if/how that would work. However, students could go really old school and put a transparency over the computer monitor and track the locations of the birds on the transparency with a marker — similar to the analysis done on a spark table.

    • Vernier’s Logger Pro software has the ability to import a video and do an analysis of the motion on x and y directions. Something like that might work but you would need to set the scale for length yourself.

  3. Would these (or similar videos) work in a “Real or Fake?” context?

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  5. I haven’t done the calculations for #2.

    For the case where the momentum is not conserved (or doesn’t seem to be conserved), imagine there’s a 4th bird (invisible) that also split off at the same time the 3 visible ones did. Assuming momentum is conserved, what is the momentum of the invisible bird?

  6. Mr. H, you’re suggesting an angry neutrino bird? Very cool, that’s a great question!

  7. Really loved the questions. Congratz :D

  8. @Mark : Wow. I hadn’t thought of that. I suppose that’s what physicists do. When observation unexpectedly break from predictions in particle physics, you could theorize a new particle with a certain mass/charge based on calculations using momentum or velocity and repeat experiments to collect large quantity of data so you can sift through it and confirm that you “observed” it.

    Frank’s next book: Understanding Particle Physics with Angry Birds!

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  10. Interesting that not a single physicist has suggested that students actually build a simple simulation to test out their theories. Transparencies on the monitor? How about plot it in a graphing application and fit a curve? How about using VPython to create a simple game? Where does real physics need to be tweaked to make the game more fun? I’m working on this for an introduction to computer science using Calico, which allows different programming languages. See http://calicoproject.org for more info. Should be appropriate for physics students, too.

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  12. Hi Frank, thanks for this. I’m having trouble viewing the Yellow Birds video clip. Won’t import to Tracker and only get audio in Logger Pro. QuickTime and Windows Media Player barf too.

    • I downloaded as flash (.flv) file from YouTube, and that opens in Tracker but not LoggerPro.

    • Did you ever resolve your problem? The download links I’ve posted are .avi files, which logger pro can open (I’ve tried).

      • Nope. And I have LP v 3.8.4 (latest). Maybe a problem with Quicktime. (Xuggle engine can’t open it either.) Can’t really spend the time on it now. Got the first clip OK and can work with that. Thanks for checking back — very thoughtful of you.

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  17. john macdonald
    has anyone tried to use vernier motion app on am angry birds screen?

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  23. I just imported the video to the iPad and used the Vernier Video Physics app. I enjoyed it and I think the kids will get just a bit more out of our kinematics lessons. However, how do I set the scale? How big is a red bird, or a square block of ice?

    • Hi David,

      You can proceed two ways:

      1. Estimate the size of a bird (finch size? chicken size? turkey size? try all three?) first to set your scale, then determine the value of g in Angry Birds world.

      2. Tinker with the scale first until the the value of g is 9.8 m/s/s, then determine the size of a bird, the slingshot, the blocks of ice, and the length of the boards.

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  27. As an English major my understanding of Physics is very small. I’m looking at how all these great lesson ideas a)fit into class time, b)meet standards for science curricula in K-12, and c) how many of the questions/scenarios you showed could fit into a test? Maybe, these are designed as learning activities, and then a traditional test is used?

    My purpose is a master’s project on using videogames in classrooms to increase motivation and learning. Thanks for your help!
    Linda

    • Hi Linda,

      (a) These fit into class time because I’d use them as in-class problem-solving activites — rather than solve a set of problems on a worksheet or from a textbook, I’d set them loose with one of the Angry Birds problems when it ties in to what we are currently studying. Or, I’d use them as capstones (see http://quantumprogress.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/raising-the-bar-for-an-a%e2%80%94capstones/).
      (b) These EASILY meet standards. They would all meet the inquiry process standards. As for content standards, they meet the physics/physical science standards for force and motion.
      (c) These 5 questions would not be on any test. I would use a traditional test, but perhaps ask a question or 2 about the outcome of an angry birds activity students previously worked through in class.

      Let me know if you have any more questions,
      Frank

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  35. Hi, my name is Erica Roush and I am an Elementary/Special Ed major at the University of South Alabama taking Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class. We are learning how to integrate technology into the classroom with expectations of increasing student participation and understanding. I see so many people playing angry birds and after watching the Science and U link here on your blog I can tell them they are apply laws of physics and didn’t even know it!
    This week I had an assignment to search for games which would be beneficial to a child with autism on the iPad. Technology is such a great tool for bringing to life an otherwise dull subject. It brings interest to difficult concepts like physics. It’s also a great tool to connect educators who are looking for new exciting ways to encourage participation in the classroom through inspiring ideas such as this.
    Erica’s Blog

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