Contributed Abstracts for Spring 2014 Meeting


Dr. Jayashree Ranga    Salem State University
“Explain Everything” – An iPad app for explaining everything
Online videos are powerful modes of offering assistance to students outside the classroom. This poster discusses the advantages of using an iPad app titled “Explain Everything” in creating and managing videos. “Explain Everything” is a lecture capture app with multiple interactive features, which aid in providing live classroom experience through videos. Videos can be created using documents such as PowerPoints, PDFs imported from locations such as Evernote, Dropbox. Once the videos are created, this app allows easy export of videos to sites such as YouTube

Andria C. Schwortz University of Wyoming / Quinsigamond Community College
Authors: Schwortz, Andria C.; French, D.A.; Gutierrez, Joseph V.; Sanchez, Richard L.; Slater, Timothy F.; Tatge, Coty
A Review of Educational Computer Simulations for Interactive Lecture Demonstrations in Introductory Astronomy Survey Courses
Despite many introductory astronomy survey course instructors’ seeming reluctance to readily adopt new educational technology, the reality is that many of them are already unknowingly doing so by projecting PowerPoint presentations, showing classroom videos, leading planetarium and observatory tours, showing desktop planetarium simulation software, and using online homework systems (e.g., MasteringAstronomy). Much more prevalent in the domain of physics teaching, physics instructors have more readily adopted supplements to traditional lecture by using interactive lecture demonstrations (ILDs).  Unfortunately, the nature of conventional astronomy teaching has made some of the more widespread physics teaching innovations rather difficult to easily implement in ASTRO 101 classrooms.  As a first step toward systematic development of ILDs in ASTRO 101, a review of education research summarizing the effectiveness and practical realities of adopting educational computer simulations (ECSs) and ILDs specifically in astronomy reveals that initial development efforts require a more targeted and purposeful effort to increase adoption and effectiveness in an astronomy lecture setting.

Valentin Voroshilov  Boston University

Physics teachers experience occasional difficulties in helping students understanding the reasons behind selecting formulae used in constructing a solution to a particular problem in Physics. To help teachers in developing better explanatory skills we are offering a set of specific tools:
1. A terminological dictionary that connects an everyday lexicon with a scientific terminology.
2. A classification table matching a situation described in a problem and a typical physical model.
3. A table correlating topical models and physical quantities needed for the qualitative description of physical models.
4. A table correlating topical models and formulae needed for the quantitative description of physical models.
5. A concept Map representing logical connections.

Calin Galeriu and Cheryl Letson   Bay Path Reg. Voc. Tec. High School
An Arduino Investigation of the RC Circuit
The experimental investigation of the charging and discharging of a capacitor is of fundamental importance to the study of electricity. While the classical experiment is done using a voltmeter and a stopwatch, this procedure is tedious and prone to human errors. We have developed an alternative procedure in which the voltage, the current, and the time are all measured electronically with the help of an Arduino Uno microcontroller board.  The charging and discharging of the capacitor are done with the help of a switch (SPDT relay controlled by an Arduino digital pin), while the measurement of the voltage is done with the help of the Arduino analog pins. The experimental data is analyzed in Microsoft Excel or Origin; it can also be graphed in real time. The exponential relationship between voltage and time can be easily verified with known values of resistance and capacitance. The charging or discharging of a capacitor can also be used to determine the values of otherwise unknown capacitors or resistors and, remarkably, the Arduino microcontroller has a built in function to do just that. The potential of the Arduino microcontroller in physics education has only recently been recognized; this new technology is also ideal for integrated STEM projects.

William Barowy   Lesley University
Conceptual Understanding and Online communication in Physics Instruction
Research in physics instruction is increasingly referring to the role of language in conceptual understanding.  This study explores the communication in online assignments including the use of interactive simulations, video, student discussion and explanation and the role of feedback from the instructor and peers in online and hybrid conceptual physics courses.  The study extends Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) as the conceptual and methodical basis for analyzing this communication.  In general, communication is not taken as limited to language use, but includes context and what information physical phenomena and simulations convey to the students.  A particular focus is on the cycle of (1) student explanation of physical phenomena that students view through online video, (2) feedback by the instructor, (3) students’ resubmission of their explanations and the evidence of student conceptual understanding.   In SFL, cohesion describes the linguistic resources for making meaning of writing or conversation by connecting one part of the writing or conversation to another.  Extended, cohesion includes connections between writing or conversations and the physical elements of context.  Cohesion is being examined as a possible linguistic marker of conceptual understanding and effective scientific explanation.

Ron MacTaylor  Salem State University

Service-Learning & Advocacy in the Physics of Music Classroom
Based on activities embedded in my Physics of Music course, this poster will highlight some of the creative and effective ways educators incorporate service-learning into their curriculum as well as encourage advocacy for music programs and initiatives. Service-learning is a teaching methodology in which students learn through thoughtfully organized service and structured reflection tied directly to academic objectives. Service activities, conducted with and meeting the needs of a community partner, foster civic responsibility and deepen academic understanding. Music Advocacy plays an important role in keeping music programs in the public eye, catching the eyes and ears of elected officials who must understand the importance of these programs when allocating funding.  The best part is that music students learn how important science in general and physics in particular is to their chosen field of study.

Mark D. Greenman     Boston University
PhysTEC at Boston University
The goal of PhysTEC (the Physics Teacher Education Coalition) is to increase the number of highly trained physics teachers graduating from colleges and universities across the country. PhysTEC is a joint effort of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers, funded by the National Science Foundation. The PhysTEC grant awarded to Boston University is helping to encode in the DNA of the physics department a culture that sees basic physics research and excellence in teaching as dual missions of a strong physics department. Boston University, a large research university located in an urban center, is working with area school districts to increase the number of highly qualified high school physics teachers. The experience of working with pre- and in-service physics teachers has had the added benefit of encouraging reflection within the physics department on strategies for effective teaching and learning. Physics majors are being encouraged to become undergraduate Learning Assistants, so physics majors graduating from Boston University will provide more effective instruction in physics, whether in the role of high school teacher, teaching assistant in graduate school, or research physicist mentoring and educating another generation of physicists.

ORAL PRESENTATIONS 8AM to 9:30 AM (subject to change)

Yakov Cherner, Garry Mullett   YCHERNER@ATELEARNING.COM ATeL, Springfield Technical Community College

Web-based Adjustable Virtual Environment for Teaching Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation
The paper presents a multilayered, highly interactive, simulation-based, integrated, and adjustable online environment for STEM education in the areas of renewable energy sources, energy distribution, and control and efficient energy consumption. The environment consists of virtual labs (vLabs) designed to enhance the understanding of technical concepts and to teach fundamental scientific laws and principles in the context of their applications.

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.

Norma M. Chase  MCPHS University – Boston

New Tutorial Video Experiments and Demonstrations
Since the 1990’s, the author has been using Interactive Physics simulations (in exported video format)as lecture demonstrations and as homework in her introductory (calculus-based) physics courses. The collection of ~300 video demonstrations developed by 2002 have stimulated student interest during lectures and helped them  to “see” how to interpret problems in terms of physics concepts.

Recently, the author has developed a collection of new tutorial video experiments, which provide a nicely visual and more stimulating format for in-class teaching/learning of physics concepts and principles, and their application to problem solving.  Only part of each experiment need be discussed in class, with completion of the data analysis left as homework; this provides an opportunity for students to reinforce and test their grasp of the physics discussed in class.  Some of the new tutorial video experiments are more basic, require no additional in-class discussion, and have been assigned as “take home labs”.

William H. Waller  Rockport Public Schools

The history of humans migrating to new lands is one of fits and starts.  Moving out of Africa, Homo sapiens had pretty much settled all of the Middle East, Europe and Asia by 40,000 BCE.  The Americas are thought to have been peopled by Asians from 20,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE, when the last ice age had sequestered water into the polar ice caps – causing sea levels to fall and thus making the Bering Strait suitable for travel by foot.  Why then did it take another 10,000 years for Europeans to settle North America and for Asians to settle the many islands of Polynesia?  In both instances, the migrating people had to cross large bodies of water.  This required the development of advanced navigational skills and as well as key sailing technologies.  Through a cross-curricular collaboration of physical science, technology/engineering, and life science faculty at Rockport Middle and High School, students have been exploring a variety of physical challenges and innovative solutions that enabled humans (and other “invasive” organisms) to ply the vast oceans and so populate new lands.  For the month of November, our various oceanic explorations were complemented by other explorations in “migration” that were led by faculty in the information technology, mathematics, language, and music departments.  Several of these lessons have become integral parts of their respective courses’ standard curricula.

Charles H. Holbrow     MIT/Colgate
A MOOC-er’s Thoughts on MOOCs
To learn about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses),  I have enrolled in a dozen and completed five. To see how MOOCs work in different disciplines and different presentation formats, I took computer cryptography, philosophy, ancient Greek hero, Puritan poetry, science and cooking, engineering dynamics, and six introductory physics courses.  To learn how MOOCs are made, I am working on John Belcher’s team,  making and adapting online materials for use in MIT’s 800-student introductory physics course. Drawing on this experience, I will describe good and bad features of MOOCs, and why I think it will be other forms of online education that will bring major changes to higher education. I will also note some big opportunities for academic entrepreneurship offered by this disruptive technology, opportunities that are available to teachers at all levels of the education system.

Naomi Ridge  Wentworth Institute of Technology

Engaging the Millenial Student by Flipping the Intro-Physics classroom.
Millenial students come to college from a high-school experience heavy on standardized testing. Students selecting a polytechnic such as Wentworth Institute of Technology for their college education generally have strong technical and computing skills, but lack confidence in the analytical subjects which make up the core of a engineering major.

In this paper I discuss how I use the model of “flipping the classroom” to engage and build confidence in freshman physics students. In particular I will address one of the concerns I have heard voiced by other teachers considering using such a teaching model, that is, that students will arrive at class unprepared, and the techniques I have found successful in tackling this.

Gary Garber Boston University Academy

Rocket Launch Analysis and the Vernier Engineering Contest

For the Vernier Engineering Contest I submitted an entry on the analysis of an Estes Rocket.  My students used a Vernier Force probe to measure the Force Profile of the engine.  They triangulated the actual height of the rocket using sextants from two base stations.  Additionally, they attached a camera to the rocket to record the flight.  My winning video entry for the contest will be shown and discussed.