06 November 2011

Physics as a subject for a kids comic book and how to get kids interested in science

For several years now, I've wanted to write a physics comic book with the goal of getting kids interested in science. The problem is that I just don't have a good idea how to do it. I need a really great idea because a comic book has to compete with TV, video games, internet, and all the other entertainment children are exposed to in the modern world.

I'm starting to feel like physics is simply not a good subject for a kids comic book. Anything that is abstract like physics will be difficult to pick up quickly and therefore you need to be able to play with it, experiment. Programming is abstract but lots of kids pick it up because you can write code and run it immediately. You can quickly progress to the point where you can make images fly across the screen. You know if the program works, because either the image flies across the screen or it doesn't. Instant feedback. That is fun, exciting, and addictive (in a good way). When you do a physics problem and you get an answer, it's very difficult to know if your answer is correct or if it makes sense. You could do a real physics experiment, but physics experiments are notoriously difficult to do right and require special equipment. I was always amazed in high school at how much equipment we needed to do simple experiments let measuring the velocity of an object moving along a track. When you do a chemistry experiment, you mix two solutions and the color changes. You can see or feel the result qualitatively. Physics experiments require too much precision; you actually have to measure the exact numbers to see if you're doing it right.

I'm starting to think that if you want to get kids interested in science and engineering without much equipment, the appropriate subjects are programming and math. I've already discussed programming. You can come up with all sorts of interesting math problems at all different levels. You can get a sense of whether your answer is correct by plugging in numbers. For geometric problems, you can often solve them by drawing pictures. Best of all, you don't have to worry about equipment failing in your experiments. Mathematics isn't constrained by the physical world, so there are lots of different ideas you can talk about, whereas in physics you are stuck discussing Newton's laws, Maxwell's equations, etc. For older kids who want to do something hands-on, I would recommend electronics. The parts are small and you don't need to go a machine shop.

No comments:

Post a Comment