July Newsletter

I’m very excited to write about Tychos this month. Steve, Jeremy, and I just returned from the [National AAPT meeting in D.C.]( link to https://www.aapt.org/Conferences/sm2018/) and I feel like we’ve finally found our place—our humble little tool is actually helping science teachers in the world. But let me reminisce a bit about how we got here.

A Brief History

Most of you on this mailing list are educators I’ve sought you out, interviewed you, and you’ve taught me a sliver of what life is like as a science teacher. In 2015 I started calling all my science teacher friends and asking them about their work, looking for a problem that I could solve with software. You have kindly connected me with friends and colleagues. So far I’ve interviewed about two dozen people from places like Allentown Pennsylvania, Hammond Louisiana, Brooklyn NY, and Boulder Colorado. It’s been wonderful to hear how science teachers approach their craft and think about kids. I learned a lot about teaching and was turned on to POGIL which is another great story. From all that talking I settled on a project about simulations and computer models which has become Tychos.org.
I’ve enjoyed building Tychos as a side project over the past three years and was looking forward to showing it off at the AAPT meeting. After a day at the meeting I was a little sad—I realized Tychos is not the most powerful tool out there. Mathematica is certainly much more powerful. There are so many others too—MatLab, VPython, Glowscript, Trinket, Jupyter. Does the world really need another computational modeling tool? But after talking to a few instructors, I realize we have our own niche. Those other tools are too powerful for the beginner—the learning curve is too steep. Instructors talked a lot about trying to make VPython easier, getting their students to not be overwhelmed. And that’s when I realized they need a simpler, easier tool for beginners. And I also recalled the first converstation I had with Steve Temple, my collaborator on Tychos. He wanted a tool that required a bare minimum of coding—ideally just the lines needed to calculate the physics. Tychos is a tool for introducting simulations and computer models. It’s not the most powerful, but I think it’s the easiest to use. Perfect for beginners.

Future Goals

I am now satisfied that Tychos is useful to teachers, and now we need to build more of it. Things on the to-do list include: 
  • Spreadsheets
    • a spreadsheet like table showing the calculations for each frame so students can see how the numbers change over time,
    • exporting these tables out to Google Sheets for further manipulation
    • importing data from spreadsheets or Logger Pro and drawing it in Tychos so students can see how well their models match experimental data
  • Superimposing video so students can compare their models to experiments
  • Make it easier for teachers to set up and create Goals

Recent Updates

Here are the list of updates to Tychos in the last three months:

New Coding Interface

The biggest change has been to our coding panels. We have added several new features:

  • New code syntax color highlighting,
  • Error messages that are long do not clutter the screen,
  • A new gutter for displaying line output,
  • Line numbers so its easier to students and teachers to reference specific lines of code.

A New Visual Widget – The Gauge

A new widget has been introduced called a Gauge that acts like an analog gauge. You can see a demonstration here: https://tychos.org/scenarios/789

A New Object – The Spring

We added a new graphic object called a Spring for representing…you guessed it! Springs! You can see a demo here: https://tychos.org/scenarios/788

Scenario Index Update – Date/Time Stamp Added

We added a date and time to the scenario list so that you could track when students created their scenarios and when they have updated them.

New Logo!

We have finally designed a logo for Tychos! Hope you like it:

Bug Fixes

We have made the following minor fixes:

  • Motion maps now save state, so when you save a scenario, the motion map state is saved.
  • Grid spacing is now always square. This fixed a bug where the grid spacing scaling was not always constrained.
  • Images can now be used to represent Particles and Blocks in Safari.


Thanks for your support, and feel free to contact us team@tychos.org.