Friday, September 16, 2011

Lab Quote Friday Returns!

Well, I can't promise any consistency at this point, but we'll give lab quote Friday another go.
This week in General Chemistry lab, the students were experimenting with volume, pressure, and temperature.  The equipment they used involved a 3-way valve.  I have discovered that 3-way valves are very confusing to a lot of people, even when they have a podcast that explains it very well.  On top of that, the lever that turns has an arrow and the word OFF printed on it.  Common sense (and the podcast) should kick in and tell you that wherever the lever is pointed is the direction that is turned off.  Well, some people just don't get it.  Here's a conversation I had this week.

Lab girl:  "Nothing is happening here.  No matter what we do, the pressure stays the same."
Me:  "Ok, let's look at your set up here."  Me thinkingOf course the pressure is staying the same, you have the valve turned to where OFF is pointed toward the pressure sensor!  But of course we want the students to try to figure things out, so I try to help a little:  "Take a look at your 3-way valve and tell me why you have it set the way it is."
Lab girl (not even looking at the valve):  "I don't know."
Me:  "Ok, do you know what the blue lever is doing?"
Lab girl:  "No."
Me:  "What does the blue lever say on it?"
Lab girl (not even looking at the lever):  "I don't know."
Me thinking:  LOOK at the lever and READ what it says!!!
Me:  "Look at the lever.  What does it say?"
Lab girl:  "Oh! OFF!"
Me:  "Yes!  Now, why isn't your pressure reading changing?"
Lab girl:  "I don't know."
Me:  "What is turned OFF right now?"
Lab girl:  "The valve?"
Me (I've lost all hope for this girl at this point):  "The valve is turned OFF toward the sensor right now.  That means that no matter what you do to the rest of the system, the sensor is not detecting the change because the valve is closed in that direction."
Lab girl:  "Oh!!  So, do I need to change that?"

This could be an interesting semester!

On another note, I am sitting in on the Gen Chem lectures this fall.  I never actually took this class because I started out an animal science major, and they take a different entry level Chemistry class.  So, I may have some good quotes from class this semester too.  So far, I've just observed how little algebra they know.  It's sad really.
One funny thing did happen this week though.  Some kid walked in right before class started and looked totally lost.  After several seconds of confusion, he said, "Oh, I think I'm in the wrong class."  This is the THIRD week of class!  Really, he should know where his classes are by now.  AND he's not even a freshman.  Oh, speaking of freshman, I have a good first-day story to tell.  I'll save it for next week :) 
And finally, this is for Shelly, courtesy of the West Texas Fair and Rodeo that we went to last night.  I thought you might like this!  (Shelly loves animals snoots)


Amanda said...

gas valves are intimidating! but that story takes the cake : )

I find that most students that struggle with chemistry (1) don't know how to study or (2) don't know algebra. I sometimes teach a prep for chem course we make people take if they have low act math scores - i spend a couple days basically teaching algebra. in gen chem though - they've got to pick it up if they didn't in hs!

Alyson said...

Oh my goodness, I don't know if I could handle that. READ the freaking knob!!!!!!!!!

I did horribly on my first Chem exam in college and it was because I didn't know how to study. I never HAD to in high school, grades just came easily. BUT luckily I was good at algebra and I had a great Chem teacher, who despite his belly hanging out most of the time, taught me how to balance equations. So I ended up doing fine once I learned to study!

Shelly said...

OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE THAT SNOOT!!!!!!! It's all cute and pink and wet!!!! AND A CUTE LITTLE BOTTOM LIP! Sigh, it really is the small things in life that make me happy.
I don't know where you get your patience from Amber. I would be kicking the girl out of class for lack of logic. I'm so happy Lab Quote Friday is back- I have missed those!
I seriously want to kiss the snoot......