Fall 2010 Meeting at IUP

  • Fall Meeting of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the American Association of Physics Teachers [WPA-AAPT]

    Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 116 Northern Suites

    October 30, 2010

    8:00 – 9:00 Registration outside 116 Northern Suites. Continental breakfast provided

    9:00 – 9:15 Greeting by Paul Ashcraft, vice president of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the American Association of Physics Teachers

    9:15 – 9:30 Gavin A. Buxton, buxton@rmu.edu, Robert Morris University. “Using Computer Models in the Class Room”

    Simple computer models can be used to help introduce students to computer simulations and allow them to visualize the physics of unusual systems. Simple computer models, along with a user interface and real-time data plotting, have been implemented in the classroom and enable students to perform brief investigations during class. As an example, a finite-difference time-domain model of photonic bandgap materials, and a Gerhardt-Schuster-Tyson model of excitable media and cardiac arrest will be presented.

    9:30 – 9:45 Michael Lehman, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Developing a High School Physics Lab to Find the Coefficient of Air Friction”

    9:45 – 10:00 Vasudeva Rao Aravind, varavind@clarion.edu, Clarion University of Pennsylvania. “Nonlinear Optical Probing of Crystal Structure in Ferroelectric Materials.”

    The electronics and transducers industry heavily relies on a class of materials known as "ferroelectrics." These materials are commonly used to make computer memories such as FeRAMs (Ferroelectric Random Access Memories), DRAMs (Dynamic Random Access Memories), etc. Ferroelectric properties of materials are inevitably linked to their crystallographic structure. In this talk, I will discuss how a high power pulsed laser can be used as a probe to study crystallographic properties in ferroelectric materials, using an example of a special kind of ferroelectric, strained strontium titanate.

    10:00 – 10:15 Dr. Nick Conklin, conklin003@gannon.edu. Gannon University, Erie, Pa. “A Brief Glimpse Into the World of Cosmic Rays”

    Energetic particles originating outside the solar system are constantly colliding with the upper atmosphere, some with energies well above those attainable by man-made particle accelerators. An overview of cosmic-ray physics and the techniques used for their detection will be presented.

    10:15 – 10:30 Coffee break

    10:30 – 10:45 DJ Wagner, djwagner@gcc.edu; Sam Cohen, cohensj1@gcc.edu; Adam Moyer, moyeraj1@gcc.edu; Jason Wetstone, wetstonejg1@gcc.edu; all Grove City College. “Developing a Standardized Fluids Assessment: Is this Question Legit?”

    We are developing an FCI-style assessment covering hydrostatic topics. One question asks students how raising a treasure chest from a lake bottom to a ship affects the water level of the lake. Contrary to the trend on other questions, the calculus-based students far underperform the trig- and concept-based students on this question. We believe the difference is because the conceptual- and trig-based students completed a specific hands-on activity on the subject. This talk will address the implication of these results for the continued inclusion of this question on the diagnostic exam. Volunteers to beta-test the assessment will be solicited.

    10:45 – 11:30 Invited Speaker: Lous DiDio, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Physics Education major. “Guided Inquiry and the Brain”

    Guided inquiry (GI) is a constructivist teaching method that encourages students to become active participants in their own learning. This student-centered approach to the classroom focuses on the learning process in addition to pure academic content. It is particularly relevant to science education in that it allows students to learn science as science is practiced. Studies on learning have shown that in this type of classroom environment, students both retain information better and relate to the subject more than students in a traditional classroom environment. With that in mind, researchers in the field of science education are currently making connections between this phenomenon and brain research. Specifically, they are looking at how the brain gathers and processes information. In this presentation, I review past and current research in this area, as well as suggest possible topics for future research.

    11:30 – 11:45 Dyan McBride, dmcbride@mercyhurst.edu, Mercyhurst College, Erie, Pa. “A New Modern Physics Course for Non-Majors”

    Mercyhurst College is currently creating a physics minor. As such, we are seeking to implement upper-division courses that will not only serve the needs of our primary constituents (chemistry/biochemistry, biology, and mathematics), but will also serve as the foundation toward the eventual creation of a physics major. With these goals in mind, we have created a Modern Topics course that can be described as a mixture of seminar-style readings and discussions, qualitative concepts and quantitative problem solving, while also incorporating a few select lab experiments. The goal of this talk is just to share some of our experiences with the group as a means of creating discourse about physics courses for the non-major.

    11:45 – 1:00 Lunch. There is an all-you-care-to-eat lunch ($7.35) at Folger Dining Hall on campus at IUP. Follow the herd to the trough.

    1:00 – 1:15 Vasudeva Rao Aravind, varavind@clarion.edu, Clarion University of Pennsylvania. “Using Computer and Internet Resources in Physics Teaching”

    Understanding in-depth physics concepts can be challenging to students of an introductory physics class, which is a mix of students majoring in physics and non-physics science subjects. In this talk, I share my experiences of how I used internet based resources to help students learn outside of class hours. I have uploaded online video tutorials (on YouTube) to help students walk through homework problems, enabling them to understand concepts outside of class hours. Although the effectiveness of this method has not yet been evaluated, the students' response has been very welcoming.

    1:15 – 1:30 Bob Reiland, robreiland@comcast.net and rreiland@shadysideaccademy.org, Shady Side Academy, Pittsburgh, Pa. “A Window Into Electrical Discharges”

    In trying to understand how plasma globes work, it occurred to me that it was odd that electrical arcs were terminating on glass. Isn't glass a very good insulator that shouldn't interact well with such arcs? Later I was thinking about the degree to which various materials can be electrically polarized when near a net charge. Is it possible that some glass compositions can be more easily polarized than others and that the glass in plasma globes is not the same as most types of glass? Results of some preliminary investigations will be demonstrated.

    1:30 – 1:45 David L. Wallach, davidzwallach@aol.com, Penn State Greater Allegheny (retired). “Some Ideas for Teaching Introductory Physics I Have Developed”

    Over the years I have found that it is useful to introduce a fifth equation for linear motion with constant acceleration. I also have developed an easy way to explain why we assume the force applied to a disk by a string which is wrapped around is assumed to be at the point of first contact. Finally, I want to elaborate on a method to increase students' Time on Task. We all know that performance is fairly well correlated with effort. I have a behavior and grading system that has worked for my students: The grading carrot and the guilt trip.

    1:45 – 2:00 A small group discussion about the direction of the WPA-AAPT, led by Secretary/Treasurer Stanley Sobolewski, sobolews@iup.edu, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

    2:00 – 2:30 Business meeting and book giveaway

    2:30 – 3:00 Planetarium show and tour of IUP Physics research facilities