PTSOS 2018-19 is here!

PTSOS logoPhysics Teacher SOS (PTSOS) is once again offering its excellent workshops in the SF Bay Area. This year’s start on Saturday, September 15th, at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos. Get complete details and sign up here.

PTSOS is a workshop and support program for new high and middle school physics teachers in Northern California. We offer 3 all-day Saturday workshops during the school year. In addition to learning about the details of the craft of physics teaching from experienced teachers, participants receive continental breakfast, lunch, and physics equipment for them to use in their classroom. The PTSOS program is recognized as one of the most effective programs for training and retaining new physics teachers.

Save the Date! Fall Meeting at Bellarmine (San Jose) Nov 9/10!

Our next meeting will be at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose on November 9 and 10.  On Saturday the 10th we’ll feature invited talks by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman and JPL Engineer/Activist Tracy Van Houten.  Of course, we’ll also have a poster session, a panel, Share & Tell and tacos for lunch.

To register, go to  If your dues are current, you should have received an email giving you a free registration coupon code.  If not, then yearly dues are $20, which includes two meetings and a whole lot of food.

Many more details as our planning develops.

Physics for James Lick High School

UPDATE:  We have been informed that James Lick High School will be offering Physics this coming academic year!

We, the members of the Northern California and Nevada Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (NCNAAPT), are concerned about the inequity of physics education at James Lick High School for the 2018-2019 school year. Recently Principal David Porter decided to cut all physics classes for 2018-2019 at James Lick High School. Physics education opportunities in the East Side Union High School District will be unequal if the physics programs at James Lick High School are cut. While not every James Lick High School student is interested in physics, each student deserves the same opportunity to learn physics as peers at other East Side Union High School District high schools. To deny only the students at James Lick High School the opportunity to take physics is unilaterally limiting their future opportunities. As a professional society of physics teachers, we were appalled to hear that restricting students’ opportunities was even considered. Continue reading “Physics for James Lick High School”

Helping out


Our section is “By physics teachers, for physics teachers.” All work is done by educators in our “spare time.” If you would like to help out, your work will be greatly appreciated, and there are many ways you can help. We can use help with:

  • Hosting Section Conferences (at your institution). We’ll help you do much of the work, but we need a contact at any institution to make the “ask” and be the main contact person.
  • Helping out at conferences. If you’d like to help set up signs, arrange tables and chairs, register people, get food, etc., we can always use another pair of hands.
  • Helping with the website. We try to add information about physics education events in Northern CA/NV, and you can be an author/editor by “cutting and pasting” from announcements.
  • Social networking. We have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and we can expand to other websites if we get help.
  • Serving as an officer. Our officers are elected each spring, but you can serve as a “trainee” if you’d like to run, and our current officer in your favorite office will help you get a sense of what that office requires.
  • Etc, etc, etc. If you have a particular interest, we can probably find a way to have you do it.

AAPT Conferences

You have four opportunities each year to attend an AAPT conference:

  • We hold a spring and fall section conference, usually in April and November. These are low-cost events, with no need to register in advance (although if you do, it helps us plan). You can always find information about our upcoming Section Conference here: (in some cases, if we don’t have our upcoming date and location set yet, you’ll see the most recent, passed, conference). Our Section Conferences usually have a brief Friday evening educational and social event, and a full-day Saturday event. Continue reading “AAPT Conferences”

Listening to Einstein’s Universe; March 20th at Sonoma State

image of event poster

image of poster, all info also in this postJoin scientists from across the globe for a unique event to celebrate the exciting new field of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy, awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Tuesday, March 20; 7:00-9:00 PM

The Cooperage at Sonoma State University

Our evening features:

  • Special screening of “LIGO Detection”, the latest
    movie by award-winning film director Kai Staats
  • Live video link-up with Kai Staats for an exclusive
    Q&A about the movie
  • Panel discussion on the future of gravitational-wave
    astronomy, with scientists from the LIGO Scientific
  • Hands-on practical demonstrations exploring
    the science and technology behind detecting
    gravitational waves

Admission is free, on campus parking is $5.

Complete information here.

Berkeley 7 Series Articulation Issues

On September 1, 2017, Aurelia Long, Berkeley Articulation Officer, provided the update on policies concerning articulating to Cal’s Physics 7 series.  Needless to say, it raised some concern.

From: Aurelia Long
Date: September 1, 2017 at 3:57:17 PM HST
Subject: [ciac] For CCC AOs: Physics articulationDear CCC AOs,On behalf of UC Berkeley’s Physics Department faculty, I want to update you on the status of an articulation re-evaluation.  We have begun to see a problematic trend, primarily from transfer students in engineering and the biological sciences who completed non or inadequate calculus based physics at a community college.  Completion of physics classes without proper calculus preparation has proven to be a significant problem for students continuing their education here at UC Berkeley and beyond. Therefore, a review was conducted to determine/confirm pre-requisites and course content necessary for articulation with UC Berkeley Physics 7A, 7B, and 7C. As a result, all community college courses with inadequate calculus prerequisites which are currently articulated with the Physics 7 series will end, effective Fall 2018. However, students who have completed currently articulated physics classes prior to Fall 2018 will be grand-fathered in for a period of 3 years.We are committed to seeing all transfer students get adequate preparation for their UC Berkeley degrees and their future goals. In order to do this, we must ensure that the courses that have/gain an articulation are, in fact, equivalents of our courses. We hope to continue to work with you to establish and maintain articulation with the Physics series. If in the future your courses are updated and/or if you add calculus supplements that students could take along with their physics courses, we encourage you to submit these courses for articulation review as soon as possible.For your reference, the catalog description and associated prerequisites for is copied below:

PHYSICS 7A Physics for Scientists and Engineers 4 Units, Mechanics and wave motion.

Prerequisites: High school physics; Math 1A Calculus; Corequisite: Math 1B Calculus

PHYSICS 7B Physics for Scientists and Engineers 4 Units, Heat, electricity, and magnetism.

Prerequisites: 7A, Math 1A Calculus; Math 1B Calculus; Corequisite: Math 53 Multivariable Calculus

PHYSICS 7C Physics for Scientists and Engineers 4 Units, Electromagnetic waves, optics, relativity, and quantum physics.

Prerequisites: 7A-7B, Math 1A Calculus; Math 1B Calculus, Math 53 Multivariable Calculus; Corequisite: Math 54 Linear Algebra and Differential Equations

Descriptions of the content of the required math and physics course courses can be found in the Berkeley course catalog (

Thank you for your continuing partnership and fabulous efforts on behalf of our community college students.


​Aurelia Long

Articulation Officer

University of California, Berkeley

Central Evaluation Unit

At the Fall 2017 NCN-AAPT meeting, a group of TYC Physics faculty met and discussed what questions needed to be asked, and what actions could be taken.

Andrew Park received clarification on some of these issues from Claudia Trujillo of the Cal Physics department.  Importantly:

 * Requiring high-school physics as prereq is not an issue UC Berkeley Physics Department cares about. Yes, the requirement has been on UC Berkeley course catalog for Physics 7 series for a long time, but UC Berkeley also does not—and is unable to—enforce it, if a student who has not taken high school physics wants to take Physics 7A.
 * The biggest issue is alignment in the math requirement (Math 1A prerequisite and 1B co-requisite for Physics 7A, Math 53 co-requisite for Physics 7B, and Math 54 co-requisite for Physics 7C), and that the physics content is taught with this level of mathematics. This is because of issues they have had with transfer students struggling in upper-division coursework (for example, depending on how it is taught, it is possible for some students to transfer without having solved a differential equation in quantum-mechanics context, which would make it difficult for the students to catch up at the upper-division level).
Ms. Trujillo will facilitate a meeting between the appropriate Cal faculty and a working group of TYC Physics faculty.  If possible, this meeting will be available via teleconference.
Some outstanding issues:
* Timing – We have been asked to complete these changes by Fall 2018.  While pathways exist, many of us needed to get changes like this into our systems last Spring.  We would like to get an extension to Fall 2020. [This may have been addressed in the Nov. 21 update]
* Units – The addition of higher-level math classes may upset unit counts on pre-existing ADTs, many of which are already at their limits.
* Content via COR – Couldn’t many of these issues be handled via modification of COR rather than math pre-reqs?  For example, stating that volume integrals of non-uniform charge densities will be covered in E&M rather than requiring the corresponding math class?
* Impact of these new requirements on quarter-system schools – Foothill, De Anza and Lake Tahoe are on quarters.  All use first-quarter calculus as a pre-req for their 7A equivalents.  It would be onerous to require two quarters of calculus before starting Mechanics.  As the second and third quarter transfer in tandem (not course-for-course), how should the math pre-reqs be sorted here?
November 21 Update
Andrew Park received another round of clarification from Claudia Trujillo:
 * There is an update coming out through Aurelia’s articulation office, including a push-back of deadline dates. She couldn’t give a timeline on when it would come out, other than that the information is already at the articulation office.
 * For a meeting between physics faculty, it is too late this semester to schedule one, but if there is a need, a meeting can be scheduled in Spring 2018, likely towards the end of the semester.
She also wanted me to convey a message: UC Berkeley is committed to the success of transfer students. Transfer students are an important part of UC Berkeley (as you know, about 1/3 of UC Berkeley undergraduate students) and serving them well is an important part of UC Berkeley’s mission. None of these changes (which aren’t really changes, in terms of what UC Berkeley has always required of its own students) are meant to impose on community colleges, but rather they are coming from a desire to prepare students better and bridge the gap many transfer students experience after transferring.

We are at CCSF in November!

Save the date, we’ll be at the City College of San Francisco for our fall conference.  We’ll have a social event at the Mission Science Workshop on the evening of Friday, November 3, from 6-9 (your arrival and departure times are flexible).   On Saturday the 4th, we’ll have our main event.  Pre-registration has closed, dues will be $25 at the door.

The Saturday highlights include a Q&A with science author Mary Roach, San Jose State’s Brian Holmes on the Physics of Music, a memorial demo show honoring Paul Doherty and an expert panel on how to best serve our transgendered students.  And, of course, there will be a poster session, lots of tacos and Share & Tell. Continue reading “We are at CCSF in November!”

Unrecognized/unknown equipment in your physics closet?

It’s summer, which means many of us will be moving into new schools, or cleaning out old ones. It’s not unusual to come across equipment that you have no idea how it is used (even for veteran teachers!). In light of that, we and PTSOS have created a new Twitter hashtag to use our collective wisdom to help identify unknown equipment:Twitter unkown equipment image


If you are on Twitter, feel free to ask and answer questions about equipment.