Spring Section Conference at Sierra College: November 2-3, 2012

Join us at Sierra College in Rocklin, CA (just 20 miles NE of Sacramento) for the fall conference of the Northern California/Nevada Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Starting with a social and planetarium and museum tour, followed by a full day of physics education speakers and workshops on Saturday.

Sierra College, Department of Physics


Friday, November 2:

Friday Evening Social

6:30PM, No—Host Dining at Tokyo Dori, directly across from campus at 5050 Rocklin Road

Friday Night Planetarium Show

8:00 PM, Sierra College – Sewell Hall Planetarium

Friday Night Museum Tour

9 PM Natural History Museum, Sewell Hall

Saturday, November 3

Mornings session at 111 Sewell Hall

8:00 Registration, coffee, donuts

9:00 Welcome and announcements

9:05 Show & Tell

Share your favorite demonstration or teaching tip. Since new teachers and section members will be at this meeting, you are encouraged to dust off some of your oldies but goodies. If you have handouts, please bring 75 copies. Time limit is 5 minutes per person or you risk the dreaded GONG by referee David Kagan!

10:05 Break

10:10 “Using Story in the Physics Classroom”

Bree Barnett Dreyfuss, breebarnett@hotmail.com Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA

Physics teachers have a long history of story telling as they try to engage and motivate their students. Many of us use rehearsed theatrics to make our content memorable. The teacher does not have to be the only source of the story though, as there are many rich and student accessible pieces of non-fiction that can be used in the classroom. Everything from short articles, comics, longer books and memoirs can be brought into your classroom. Come hear specifically about how I used “The Pluto Files” by Neil deGrasse Tyson in my Conceptual Physics classroom to supplement my Astronomy content and learn about the nature of science. Some strategies for engagement involving story telling will be also shared, as well as some examples for the classroom. If you have any particular articles, stories, or books that you use in your classroom, feel free to come share them!

10:45 Invited Talk: “Prior Understanding of Physical Concepts Improves Students’ Problem Solving Skills”

David J. Webb webb@physics.ucdavis.edu, UC Davis, Davis, CA

It is well known that an expert in a field not only knows significantly more individual facts/skills than a novice but also has these facts/skills organized in a (mental) hierarchy that links the facts together with larger more encompassing ideas. This cognitive structure allows an expert to understand a problem differently than a novice (see important features), analyze the problem differently (use much more qualitative thinking), and so solve problems more efficiently. In the Spring quarter of 2012 UC Davis offered 4 sections (about 180 students each) of the first quarter of introductory physics, Newtonian mechanics. One of the sections (the treatment group) had the entire 10-week quarter’s set of ideas introduced, largely qualitatively, in the first 6 weeks followed by 4 weeks of using those ideas to solve the algebraically complicated problems that physicists prize. The other 3 sections served as control groups and were organized in the usual way by introducing new ideas almost simultaneously with the algebraically complicated problems, one topic at a time, throughout the 10-week quarter. After controlling for overall academic ability (using GPA) as well as initial understanding of Newtonian mechanics (using the FCI), the treatment group was found to score higher, with better than 99% confidence, on a final exam that was written by two of the control-group instructors. Almost any physics class could be organized as the treatment group was.

11:45 Group Photo

12:00 Lunch w/Topic Tables Outside of Sewell Hall

Sit with old friends, new friends or at a topic table. Possible topic tables: AP Physics, Physics First, Rookie Teachers, Two Year Colleges, Next Generation Science Standards, and/or Labs.

Afternoon Presentations Sewell 111

1:00 “Get In the Swing of Physics”

David Kagan dkagan@csuchico.edu & Paul Robinson Pablo@laserpablo.com, CSU Chico, Chico, CA & San Mateo High School (Retired) San Mateo, CA

There is a semester of physics in a simple baseball bat. Using principles such as center-of-mass, rotational inertia, center-of-oscillation, center-of- percussion, coefficient of restitution, force, torque, and standing waves, you will understand why a bat is shaped like it is. You have probably heard of the “sweet spot,” but after this presentation, you’ll know why it is so very sweet. In addition, you’ll have a collection of activities you can try out with your class.

Some people consider hitting a round ball with a round bat is one of the hardest thing in sports–and a home run is by far the most exciting of all. Although the physics of collision of a batted ball can be complicated, the basics provide much instructional opportunities in the classroom.

2:00 “Rube Goldberg Machines”

Sierra College Physics & Engineering Club mrparker.us@gmail.com, Sierra College, Rocklin, CA

The main goal of the physics and engineering club is to further the understanding of applied physics and engineering concepts. We accomplish this through the construction of large Rube Goldberg machines. These machines implement many physical properties and use the knowledge gained from Sierra College physics and engineering classes to design machine tasks and solve problems encountered during the design and testing process. We would like to show several of our more complex tasks and explain how the brainstorm, design, construction, and problem solving process helped us as aspiring physics and engineering students.

2:30 “Charging by Induction: A Common Student Difficulty”

Xueli Zou, xzou@csuchico.com, CSU Chico, Chico, CA

In this talk we will present an experimental problem in which an electroscope is charged by induction. Our data show that many introductory physics students have difficulties correctly predicting the type of charge induced on the electroscope. Our data and learning strategies that help students overcome this difficulty will be discussed in detail.

2:45 “ARC Physics and Astro Club Research Projects”

American River College Physics and Astronomy Club, vik@arcastronomyclub.com

ARC Physics and Astronomy Club will be presenting its active research projects such as Gravitational Interaction of Antimatter Experiment, Behavior of Bacteria in Near-Space Environment, and various other minor projects.

3:00 “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: A Brief Review of Fluid Mechanics Coverage in Physics Texts”

Evan Jones, revwin@yahoo.com, Sierra College emeritus, Rocklin, CA

A comparison is presented of fluid dynamics treatments (and mistreatments) found in popular physics texts. The discussion includes examples of ways that texts sometimes neglect Newton, besmirch Bernoulli, and affront airfoils.

3:30 “Flipping the Physics Class”

Geoffrey R. Clarion, gclarion@rocklin.k12.ca.us, Rocklin High School, Rocklin, CA

Sal Khan of the Khan Academy, in a recent 60 Minutes episode, mentioned how the “flipped” classroom is changing the future of education. An over-simplified description of the flipped class is one in which the lecture is viewed at home and homework is done in class.

At Rocklin High School, the “flipped” classroom is in its second year of implementation at the AP Physics B and C levels. Instructors will share strategies and challenges of this pedagogical model; demonstrate the hardware and software needed to implement the flipped class; and introduce the “flipped lab.”

4:30 End

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