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Computer simulation is the discipline of designing a model of an actual or theoretical physical system, execute it on a computer, and analyze the execution output. This process helps students understand the world around them, especially phenomena that cannot be replicated in a lab setting. The simulations presented here are intended to demonstrate the tremendous power of computer simulations and the extent to which the computer made it possible for complex phenomena to be simulated, tested and better understood by students. Simulations have a passive and an active form. In a passive simulation, the simulations have been created for the student and students are merely activating them and learning by manipulating variables. Learning does happen, but it does not sink in as when the student has to build the phenomenon from scratch. In the active form of simulations, students investigate, build, operate, and analyze a phenomenon to better understand it. Students have an active role throughout all phases of creating their simulation with direct control over the acquisition of data and gaining a deeper understanding of their topic.
The Moonphase project is intended to simulate the different phases of the moon throughout the month and the objects that influence those phases. This simulation tries to depict celestial phenomena that would be harder to understand without a computer simulation. The Ants simulation is not out of space and therefore easier to follow in real life. However, just by watching ants as they follow the same path towards a source of food does not make it easier to understand why ants always choose the shortest path to a food source. Building a simulation helps students understand why this phenomenon makes so much sense. Of course, being able to represent a phenomenon in simplistic terms requires a thorough study of all the variables that influence ants in their habitat. Mastering all the facts makes it easier for students to build a model of an ant behavior that seems difficult to understand otherwise.
The Moonphase Project
The Ants Project