Contributed Oral Paper Abstracts

Saturday Oral Contributed Presentation Abstracts: Room A

8:00 AM

Yakov Cherner and Stephen Cremer: ATeL Simulation-based Customizable Virtual Environment for Teaching Energy and Energy Conservation:

vLabs allow students to explore the design and operation of solar power and heating systems, power control and distribution equipment, cyber-physical systems, home appliances, various light sources, and other power consumption devices, as well as relevant physical processes. Each online activity focuses on a particular task and specific learning objectives. They include highly interactive main and auxiliary simulations, step-by step instructions for students, worksheets, built-in lessons to facilitate “just-in-time” learning, embedded assessments, and other resources.

The virtual labs can be combined with related hands-on exercises to form hybrid laboratories to be delivered via either online or on-site teaching methodologies.

The authoring toolkit allows teachers with no-programming experience to develop new, and tailor existing, virtual activities to specific learning objectives and students’ background, to personalize student assignments and assessments, and to link vLabs with the teachers’ own favorite e-learning resources.

8:15 AM

Erica Wilson: Boston Green Academy

Bicycle Generator – Teaching Physics through Sustainable Energy; A Collaboration Between Boston Green Academy and Boston University

The goal of this collaboration between Boston University and Boston Green Academy (BGA) was to build a working eco-bike system to become a permanent fixture for the BGA science department.  This consisted of a stationary bicycle that students could ‘ride’ to convert the mechanical energy they provided into electrical energy.
The setup has safe and easily interchangeable outlets so that students can plug in a variety of their own handheld/portable appliances (cell phones, laptops, etc), or classroom appliances such as the projector.  This practicality draws a broader array of students as compared to those strictly interested in the physics behind the energy transfer.
Using a built-in meter, students are able to immediately see how much power they are producing.  In addition, the bicycle can be configured to observe the differences between different wattage bulbs, incandescent bulbs and CFLs, and bulbs in series versus parallel.
The eco-bike can also be used for public community education and awareness during our open houses, and as a fundraiser (for example, selling apple cider that was warmed through the energy transfer of the bicycle).
8:30 AM

William H. Waller: Rockport Public Schools

The Potential Contribution of Waste Heat to Global Warming

The rise of average global temperatures by 0.6 Centigrade degrees over the past 50 years is increasingly attributed to the trapping of infrared radiation by greenhouse gases.  However, direct thermal powering of the atmosphere by human-generated “waste heat” could also play a significant role. I will present a simple model for the thermal power that is required to produce the observed temperature increase.  I will then compare that thermal powering with humanity’s total power production/consumption and its likely waste-heat component.  Physics students at Rockport High School carry out these calculations, explore their limitations, discuss their implications.

8:45 AM

Clayton Handleman: Heliotronics

The Renewable Energy Future and Some Unfinished Physics Business That Could Get Us There.

Taking capacity factor into account, solar and wind power now account for the annual energy equivalent of about 100 nuclear power plants.  Give or take a couple of years, renewable energy will account for about 20 percent of electrical generating capacity by 2020.  In fact, one could argue that from a technical standpoint getting to 25% renewable is a solved problem and pretty much a done deal.  However one could also argue that with the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies, this really won’t put much of a dent in climate change.  There are significant technical barriers to getting much beyond 25% renewable power generation.  In this talk I will discuss some of these and some of the science and technology that will prepare your students to solve the critical problems.

9:00 AM

Clayton Handleman: Heliotronics

The Solar Learning Lab™, Commercial Quality Renewable Energy Data for Your Classroom

Heliotronics has provided renewable energy data displays to schools, museums, colleges and universities for over a decade.  Last fall we released an Internet portal that aggregates the up to date data from many of these sites into a single educational Internet portal.  The Solar Learning Lab™ has excellent data query and display capabilities.  However it goes much further in supporting the teaching of STEM subject matter with curriculum, teacher training, interactive online forums and additional tools.  In this talk I will provide an overview of the Solar Learning Lab’s™ features and provide some data based examples of how it can be used in your classroom as a learning catalyst.

9:15 AM Gary Smith: St. John’s Preparatory School

Photonics RET @ Boston University

During the summers of 2010 and 2011, I worked at the BU Photonics Center as part of an RET research grant. During that time, I gained many valuable insights into the world of nanotechnology and current issues in engineering physics.  I’ve taken many of these lessons with me to my physics classroom, where I teach high school juniors and seniors.
The BU-RET program was administered by BU-Lernnet director Cynthia Brossman and Prof. Michael Ruane of the BU-ECE department.  My cooperating professor was Hatice Altug of the ECE group.  Our collaboration resulted in the production of dual sets of instructional materials that could be used both my me, and by Prof. Altug in her course “Introduction to Nanotechnology.”

Saturday Oral Contributed Presentation Abstracts: Room B

8:00 AM

Andrew Duffy, Manher Jariwala, Peter Garik, and Mark Greenman: Boston University

Linking in-service and pre-service physics teachers at Boston University

Since 2004, Boston University has been offering a set of ten two-credit courses for high-school physics teachers ( through a project known as ITOP (Improving the Teaching of Physics), aimed at in-service teachers as well as Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) students who are specializing in physics. Starting in 2011, we also started a Learning Assistant program, getting trained undergraduate students to assist with group work in discussion sections in many of our undergraduate physics courses, and sparking interest in teaching, as a possible career, among the Learning Assistants. Beginning in Fall 2013, as part of our PhysTEC grant (, we plan to merge these efforts, bringing potential future teachers, MAT students, and in-service teachers together in the ITOP courses. This talk will include an overview of ITOP, an overview of the Learning Assistant program, and a discussion of our future plans.

8:15 AM

David Galatzer-Levy: B.M.C. Durfee HS

Information Intake: Developing Attention Skills in Students

Students are getting most of their information from visual media such as youtube, netflix, and television. Instead of reteaching ideas that students are exposed to through high budget media outlets, why not teach kids how to retain information from videos they watch. Teaching information intake skills through guided practice, can help students get the most out of independant learning and help prepare them for future success, particularly in online courses.

8:30 AM

James Vesenka: University of New England Modeling Fluid Statics to Help Students Understand Fluid Dynamics

The UNE PERG is investigating life science student preconceptions about fluid dynamics, specifically understanding the Bernoulli Principle (BP).  We have identified important scaffolding content and laboratory interventions that improve student success at understanding BP.  The key scaffold element appears to be a sound understanding of kinetic theory including the ability to model fluids as multiple interacting particles.  A new modeling centered laboratory on ideal gasses with conceptually rich diagrammatic tools has been deployed.  A tactile life science lab activity is currently being evaluated in order to help students address the paradox of high blood pressure and pressure drop within a restriction, e.g. a blocked blood vessel.  Complicating effective instructional efforts are numerous incorrect applications of the BP found in many physics texts.  The range of practical problems that BP is applicable to is narrow and frequently BP is employed when other dynamic processes are more important.

8:45 AM

John K. Dayton American International College

A Contemporary four credit Astronomy course for non-majors

The NSF sponsored license exempt software of Project CLEA [Contemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy] was adapted to demonstrate digital laboratory exercises.  Several CLEA programs and Class Action exercises were integrated with WebAssign™ work sheets, including stellar spectral classifications, Hubble’s Law and Earth in Space.  The virtual computer experience eliminated weather related night viewing.  These computer based exercises were matched with existing optics apparatus.  A full list of the laboratories will be discussed.  The Seymour Planetarium within walking distance provided contact with a telescope.  Other local resources include:  a sun wheel, and contact with local amateur astronomer groups.  Student costs were limited to one text book, calculator, and a registration fee to Webassign™.

9:00 AM

Mark D. Greenman: Boston University

Physics Professional Development – Closing the Knowledge Gap

During the summers of 2008 through 2012 five cohorts totaling 114 secondary school teachers responsible for teaching physics concepts enrolled in a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education funded summer institute hosted at area Universities to enhance the teachers’ physics content knowledge and to improve their use of research-based best practices in teaching physics.
The content knowledge gap between male and female science teachers was reduced from a gap of 25% to 6%, and the gap between physics majors teaching physics and other science majors teaching physics was reduced from a gap of 31% to 8%. The average paired fractional gain for these participants was .68 with teachers in every comparison group showing strong gains (.57 to .74).  Just as encouraging, these gains showed little decay over time. The Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE) tool, developed at The Center for Science and Mathematics Teaching at Tufts University was used to measure teacher conceptual understanding, and a paired pre/post-test format was utilized to look at change in teacher content knowledge.

9:15 AM

Clark Neily: St. Hermon of Alaska School

An Aerospace Engineer Turns Physics Teacher

An experienced guidance, navigation and control engineer looks back on a fourteen year career as a high school physics teacher, and finds a great deal to complain about in the realm of mathematical and computational machinery. With examples and counterexamples.