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In the field of educational technology, some apps might be getting too smart.

More and more apps are delivering on-demand homework help to students, who can easily re-purpose the learning tools to obtain not just assistance, but also answers. Whether or not that’s cheating—and how to stop it—is one of the concerns surrounding a new app that can solve math equations with the snap of a camera. While the software has inspired teachers to create real-world homework problems that can’t be automatically solved, that strategy doesn’t hold up to other apps that tap into real-life brains for solutions.

Here’s a look at 7 apps that can do your homework for you, and what they have to say about cheating:

PhotoMath

Price: Free
Availability: iOS, Android app coming in early 2015

The new, seemingly magic app allows users to take pictures of typed equations, and then outputs a step-by-step solution. As of Wednesday, the app is the number one free app on the App Store. But the biggest issue, one teacher argues, isn’t if students will use the app to cheat, because many will. Rather, it’s about how teachers will adapt. A PhotoMath spokeswoman said educators have welcomed the app with positive reviews, but the software remains “quite controversial.”

“We didn’t develop PhotoMath as a cheating tool. We really wanted kids to learn,” said Tijana Zganec, a sales and marketing associate at tech company MicroBlink, which created PhotoMath. “If you want to cheat, you will find a way to cheat. But if you want to learn, you can use PhotoMath for that.”

iHomework

Whether you’re a high schooler with eight periods of classes or a college student tackling dozens of credits, there’s one thing you’ve got for sure: a mess of assignments. iHomework can help you keep track of all your work, slicing and dicing it in a variety of ways. Sorting it by due date, week, month, or by course, the app is more organized than a Trapper Keeper. And in integrating data from Questia, you can link your reading material to your assignments so you don’t have to dig through a pile of papers to find the right information.

A scheduling feature can help you keep track of those random bi-weekly Thursday labs, and you can even mark the location of your courses on a map so you don’t end up on the wrong side of campus. And finally, with iCloud syncing, you can access all this information on whatever Apple-compatible device you’re using at the moment — no need to dig for your iPad.

Google Apps for Education

Taking the search giant’s suite of free browser-based apps and sandboxing them so they are safe for school use, Google Apps for Education is an excellent alternative to the mainstream installable productivity software, but this one has a perk that almost school board will love—it’s free. Packaging together favorites like Gmail, Hangouts, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive with Classroom, a digital hub for organizing assignments and sending feedback, the goal of this collection is to make learning a more collaborative process.

Though Google Apps for Education is cloud-hosted, the programs can be used offline, ideal for when your student needs to escape the internet and work distraction-free. And since it works on any device, it also helps students avoid buying overly expensive hardware. That means more money for extracurricular activities.

HwPic

Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability: iOS and Android

HwPic is a tutoring service that allows students to take send pictures of their homework to tutors, who will then respond within minutes to your questions with a step-by-step solution. There’s even an option to expedite the answers if a student is in a hurry. HwPic Co-Founder Tiklat Issa said that the app was initially rejected by Apple’s App Store, which believed it would promote cheating, but he successfully argued that just because someone uses the app in a way that it’s not meant to be used doesn’t mean the app should be punished.

Issa added that HwPic prohibits cheating in its terms and conditions. Tutors don’t solve homework that has words like “Quiz” or “Exam,” and they often know if a student is sending a photo during a test if they’ve paid for expedited answers, and if the photo is dim, blurry and taken under a desk. “We’ve minimized cheating,” said Issa. “We haven’t eliminated it. That’s kind of unrealistic.”

Wolfram Alpha

Price: $2.99
Availability: iOS and Android

Wolfram Alpha is similar to PhotoMath, only that it targets older students studying high levels of math and doesn’t support photos. The service also outputs step-by-step solutions to topics as advanced as vector calculus and differential equations, making it a popular tool for college students.

“It’s cheating not doing computer-based math, because we’re cheating students out of real conceptual understanding and an ability to drive much further forward in the math they can do, to cover much more conceptual ground. And in turn, that’s cheating our economies,” said Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research’s Director of Strategic Development, in a TEDx Talk. “People talk about the knowledge economy. I think we’re moving forward to what we’re calling the computational knowledge economy.”

Homework Helper

Price: Free
Availability: iOS and Android

Chinese Internet search company Baidu launched an app called Homework Helper this year with which students can crowdsource help or answers to homework. Users post a picture or type their homework questions onto online forums, and those who answer the questions can win e-coins that can be used to buy electronics like iPhones and laptops.

The app has logged 5 million downloads, much to the dismay of many some parents who argue that the students spend less time thinking about challenging problems. A Homework Helper staffer admitted to Quartz, “I think this is a kind of cheating.”

Slader

Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability:
iOS

Slader is a crowdsourcing app for high school and college students to post and answer questions in math and science. While students can post original homework for help, many questions in popular textbooks have already been answered on the app, according to Fast Company. An Illinois high school said earlier this year that it suspected students were using the service to cheat on their math homework.

Slader argues that it’s “challenging traditional ideas about math and education,” and said that the ideas behind its app “aren’t a write-off to teachers,” according to its blog. Slader told San Francisco media outlet KQED that it shouldn’t be dismissed as a cheating tool, but rather considered a way for students to access real-time help.

Difficulty
Time RequiredAverage (6-10 days)
PrerequisitesNone
Material Availability Readily available
CostLow ($20 - $50)
SafetyNo issues

Abstract

Earth's atmosphere, the ocean of air that blankets the planet, is mostly nitrogen and oxygen, with small amounts of other gases. How much oxygen is present in air at sea level? In air high up in the Appalachians or Rockies? Atop Mount Everest? How much oxygen is present in the air you breathe? Here's a project that shows you how to measure the percentage of oxygen in an air sample.

Objective

Measure the percentage of oxygen in air samples.

Credits

Andrew Olson, Ph.D., Science Buddies
Damon Kawamoto, Science Buddies Summer Science Fellow, 2011

Sources

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "From Gas to Rust: Measuring the Oxygen Content of Air" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 28 July 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2018 <https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Weather_p004/weather-atmosphere/oxygen-content-of-air-rust>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2017, July 28). From Gas to Rust: Measuring the Oxygen Content of Air. Retrieved March 10, 2018 from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Weather_p004/weather-atmosphere/oxygen-content-of-air-rust



Last edit date: 2017-07-28

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Introduction

We live near the bottom of an ocean of air that surrounds the earth. The atmosphere protects us from harmful radiation from the sun, yet captures enough of the sun's light and warmth to make the planet habitable. Speaking of habitable, the atmosphere also contains the oxygen we need to breathe to support cellular respiration, the metabolic process that provides the chemical energy necessary for life.

How much oxygen is in the air? This project will show you an interesting way to measure the percentage of oxygen in a sample of air in a test tube. The method depends on atmospheric pressure and a chemical reaction that removes oxygen from the air.

So what kind of chemical reaction can remove oxygen from the air? Oxidation of iron, also known as rusting, will do the trick. Exposed iron will rust in the presence of oxygen and water. As you do your background research, study this chemical reaction, and you will see that oxygen becomes combined with the iron atoms and water to create iron oxides.

You'll use plain, fine steel wool (available at the hardware store) as your source of iron, placing it in the bottom of a test tube. Then, you'll dampen the steel wool, turn the test tube upside down, and mount it so that the mouth is submerged under water. This will trap the air in the test tube and also provide water vapor for the oxidation reaction. You will have all of the chemicals necessary for the reaction: iron in the steel wool, plus oxygen and water vapor in the air in the test tube. As the iron rusts, oxygen is removed from the air sample in the test tube. With less gas, there will be lower pressure inside the test tube (fewer gas molecules bouncing around, pushing on the walls of the test tube and the surface of the water inside the tube). Meanwhile, your experiment will continue to be under the (more or less) constant pressure of the ocean of air, atmospheric pressure. So what will happen to the water level in the test tube as the oxygen in the air sample becomes sequestered in iron oxide?

That's how you'll measure the percentage of oxygen in your air sample. By measuring the water level at the start of the experiment, and at the end (when the water level has stopped changing), you can take the difference to find out how much oxygen was used to oxidize the steel wool.

How does oxygen content change with altitude? Can you use this method to find out?

Terms and Concepts

To do this project, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts:
  • Atmosphere
  • Oxygen
  • Atmospheric pressure
  • Oxidation
  • Rusting

Questions

  • What are the gases that comprise Earth's atmosphere?
  • What chemical reaction occurs when iron rusts?
  • Why does the water level in the test tube rise as the steel wool oxidizes?
  • Why does the water level eventually stop rising?
  • What would happen if a larger piece of steel wool was used? A much smaller piece?

Bibliography

This NASA website has information about atmospheric pressure:

These websites have information about the atmosphere:

This website has information about rusting:

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Materials and Equipment

  • Test tubes (6), all the same size; available from online suppliers such as Carolina Biological Supply Company.
  • Masking tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Jars or bottles (6); clean, clear, and each with the same height. You may find suitable jars around your home, or they are available from online suppliers such as Carolina Biological Supply Company
  • Ring stands with clamps (6). Ring stands and clamps are available from Carolina Biological Supply Company.
    • Alternative: if you cannot borrow these from school, you can make your own device to hold the test tubes over the jars. See Figures 2 and 3 for more details.
  • Steel wool (1 pad). Steel wool is available from most grocery stores or from online suppliers such as Carolina Biological Supply Company.

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Remember Your Display Board Supplies

Remember Your Display Board Supplies

If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

Chemist

Everything in the environment, whether naturally occurring or of human design, is composed of chemicals. Chemists search for and use new knowledge about chemicals to develop new processes or products. Read more

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