Making Virtual Labs

November 10, 2010
School of Engineering, Amritapuri

Prof. Nandakumaran, Dr. K. Sreelatha, Ms. SreekalaProf. V. M. Nandakumaran, Chairperson of the Amrita Department of Physics, recently traveled to IIT Kanpur for the Progress Review Meeting of the MHRD-funded Virtual Labs project.

Prof. Nandakumaran was accompanied by faculty members Dr. K. S. Sreelatha and Ms. Sreekala.

At the meeting, the team demoed 14 virtual experiments, encompassing concepts and devices such as Doppler’s Effect, Newton’s Law of Cooling, Vandegraff Generator, Lee Disc Apparatus and Millikan’s Oil Drop Experiment.

“The objective was to offer a learning experience for students that could simulate learning in an actual laboratory,” shared Prof. Nandakumaran.

For instance, Millikan’s Oil Drop Experiment enables students of physics to measure electron charge. The virtual lab enables those students who may not have ready access to the physical laboratory setup, to also learn by virtually performing the experiment on a computer.

Oil Experiment“The student can do the entire operation on the apparatus as if it were being conducted in a real lab,” explained Prof. Nandakumaran. “The student can put the potential ‘0’ and start observing the oil drop that moves through a distance on the screen (which is zoomed). The time taken to cover that distance is then measured using a virtual timer. The student can also change the potential and repeat the experiment.”

The team received appreciation for their presentation on several virtual labs, including the one demoing Newton’s Law of Cooling.

Explaining that the very fact that the Amrita team had presented 14 experiments, far surpassed the review team’s expectations, Prof. Nandakumaran added, “We have definitely created a benchmark in this area. We have gained a competitive edge by creating a user-friendly platform in all the experiments.”

“Conceptualizing the experiments is a big task,” he stated. “We have a wonderful team of graphics experts that helps us.”

This was the team’s second presentation to the review panel. The first presentation made several months ago had included a few basic experiments, such as the Simple Pendulum.

“We had incorporated all suggestions given by the expert panel during the previous review,” stated Prof. Nandakumaran.

Simple Pendulum

Added Dr. Sreelatha, “The panel now has great faith in us and is hoping that we are capable of taking on any challenges. I feel that this is our greatest achievement.”

As per the panel’s suggestion, all experiments completed thus far will be uploaded to a common website so that students can start benefitting immediately.

Prof. Nandakumaran summed up, “We have been appreciated and highly commended by the assessment experts. Our virtual labs met all panel expectations in terms of content and quality.”

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