The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Francis Marion University recently purchased 12 MacBooks for students to use in physical science laboratories.
Joe Mehaffey, Supervisor of the Physical Science Programs, said that computers provide a tremendous advantage in the laboratory.
“The way we use computers is to aid in data acquisition and analysis,” Mehaffey said. “We use microphones, magnetic field sensors, and other instruments to monitor physical systems. They allow us to gather lots of data in a short amount of time, and the results are displayed visually in graphical form.”
Mehaffey said that computers eliminate the need for students to carry out repetitive calculations and allow them to understand the science.
“For physical science students, who are typically non-science majors, com-puters provide freedom from tedious calculations,” Mehaffey said. “Students can focus their attention on what the data means, rather than being bogged down by calculations.”
Mehaffey said that the use of computers in physical science labs is not new. The new MacBooks are an upgrade of already existing hardware.
“The recently purchased MacBooks are a replacement for older MacBooks initially purchased about 10 years ago,” Mehaffey said. “They were the oldest laptops in the department and served us well.”
Mehaffey said that the main reason the department purchased MacBooks was their reliability.
“The computers we had been using proved reliable for the amount of abuse they encountered,” Mehaffey said. “We have used the computers at least once every week for the last 10 years.”
Mehaffey said the other reason was to continue using established educational soft-ware to communicate with the students.
“Fifteen years ago, most of the educational software programs were written for the Mac platform,” Mehaffey said. “Though this is no longer true, we can continue using the software we’ve already purchased and are familiar with.”