I spent all day Sunday grading the first set of lab reports. I was expecting 24 reports of about 3 pages each, but I got 25 averaging about 5 pages each. I think that the reports were a bit better this year than at corresponding times in previous years, but I did not get my grading done until almost midnight Sunday night, keeping me from getting much else done this weekend.

(I did manage to get my hair cut and to build a new strobe stand with room for 20 of my LED boards, which should give 1800 lumens during the flash. With a duty cycle of only 1/65, I don’t think that I need heat sinks on the boards for the strobe, as the average current should be only 40mA, though the peak current will be about 2.6A.)

In class on Monday, I gave students some group feedback on their writing, plus a couple of pointers, then took questions, some of which were about writing, but most were about the optimization of the fixed resistor in the voltage divider for the resistance-to-voltage converter in the thermistor lab. I showed them how to set that up, but did not try to solve it in class.

After class, when I was making up the key (redoing all the problems—I don’t like just looking up results—refreshing my memory on how to solve the problems by resolving them is best), I ran into a little trouble doing the optimization. I used to be able to just ask Wolfram Alpha to solve the differential equation, but their newer parser seems to be much harder to convince to do anything. I eventually gave up and used a cruder tool to just take the second derivative and solved for the resistance by hand. That was faster than the time I wasted trying to get Wolfram Alpha to do anything useful. (I suspect that they have deliberately crippled it, to make people pay for Mathematica.)

Monday afternoon and evening (from about 1:30 to 7:45) was spent grading the first pre-lab homework. Again the results are a little better than previous years, but there were 9 prelabs fewer than I expected (3 students have dropped already and 6 did not do the prelab). I hope that those who did not do the prelab were just confused about when it was due, and not starting a trend towards coming to class and lab unprepared. I also hope that no more students drop—this class is not a weed-out class, though it is a lot of work.

Back in January, Mike wanted to know where I ended up doing my grading. Sunday I did my grading in my breakfast room, with the laptop on the floor where I could get to it if I really needed to look something up, but where it was not a constant temptation to goof off. On Monday, I worked in my office on campus, where the e-mail was a minor distraction that I checked between problems. (For the prelabs, I graded the entire stack for problem 1, then the entire stack for problem 2, and so forth. This makes for more consistent and faster grading than grading a student at a time, but it would be faster still if the students didn’t put their answers in random order on what they turned in.) I’ll probably continue with weekend grading in the breakfast room and prelab grading in my office until the distractions get to be too much—then I’ll look for a coffeeshop to grade in.