Cool/Hot Tech

I have been thinking about getting a thermal imaging camera. Specifically, an attachment for an iPhone that allows it to do thermal imaging. If you had one in your classroom, what would you use it for?  – R., Alaska

This is a great idea! Having a hands-on device to explore phenomena beyond our senses is an excellent tool for a science class. When I think of using thermal imaging technology (and I would include infrared thermometers) the following comes to mind:

Convection/Conduction: Set up an ambient temperature aquarium and turn on the heater. Track the convection over time through photos or time-lapse video. Heat or cool different materials and rank them in terms of conduction. Experiment with surface area, fans, colors, and their effects on heating and cooling.

Homeotherms vs. Poikilotherms: compare the body temperatures of “hot-blooded” and “cold-blooded” animals at different ambient temperatures.

Temperature gradients: Many students don’t really grasp what a gradient is. Have them graph temperature vs. distance for a variety of radiant heat sources.

Heat of vaporization: Students will discover that the temperature of boiling water is constant. This is where an infrared thermometer is excellent to use. Point it at a beaker of boiling water. The glass (measured from the side) will register 400+ °C while the water (measured from the top) will be at 100°C.

Hypo- and hyperthermia (within reason!). Have students over- and underdress for outside and map their temperature patterns and changes. Compare this to a dog. Most mammals handle hypothermia and hyperthermia differently than humans.

Engineering: Have students design insulated containers that keep a beverage warm for the longest possible time. Thermal images will allow them to assess and modify their creations.

Hope this helps!

 

Photo credit: By NASA/IPAC [Public domain]

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