Contributed Papers, Spring 2009 Conference

The following papers were presented at the conference.

We hope to have links to author’s web resources soon.

What is an electron?

Richard Kidd, Diablo Valley College (retired), Pleasant Hill, CA
A student once asked me this question and appeared very dissatisfied when I replied that we have many precise
measurements of its properties but no knowledge as to the electron’s structure, leading it to be often considered to be a point
particle. Recently, my interest in the question was rekindled by a plausible suggestion as to electron structure in a science fiction
story. I calculated its feasibility along with those of some historical models, including several suggested by A. H. Compton, in terms
of what we do know.

A Proof of the Maximal Efficiency of the Carnot Cycle

Duygu Demirlioğlu, Holy Names University, Oakland, CA
When discussing heat engines, standard physics textbooks state that the most efficient cycle operating between two reservoirs at fixed temperature is the Carnot cycle. On a PV diagram the Carnot cycle appears to be a peculiar figure bounded by two isotherms and two adiabats. How do we show students that this cycle is indeed the most efficient one? How do we prove Carnot’s theorem in an elementary course? We will present a simple, visually elegant proof, a transformation of the oddly shaped Carnot cycle into a simple geometric figure, and a calculation of the efficiency of the cycle by essentially reading it off a diagram.

Orbiting Satellites and Elevators Through the Center of Earth

Paul Robinson, San Mateo High School, San Mateo, CA
Suppose you could bore a tunnel through the center of the earth. Further suppose you could pump all the air out of this tunnel to eliminate air friction. What would happen if you devised an elevator that dropped all the through to the other side? This would be one heck of ride–such an elevator would be like an 8,000-mile Drop Zone at Great America! How long would it take for you to reach the other side of the earth? How long would a round trip be? And how fast would you end up going at the center of the earth? It turns out the round trip time of the elevator is exactly the same time it takes a satellite to orbit the earth—about 90 minutes! This means it would take the elevator 45 minutes to reach the other side of the earth—an impressive feat considering it required no fuel! Why is the time (or period) of the elevator the same as an orbiting satellite? The solution to this problem makes an excellent review problem for either introductory college or AP students.

Using YouTube Video in the Classroom

CJ Chretien, Leadership Public Schools, Richmond, CA
YouTube can be a great, and free, educational tool for the classroom as well as for your own professional development. I will give you some ideas of how you can use YouTube videos in your classroom as well as how to download YouTube videos since it is blocked at many schools. Lastly I will introduce the new NCNAAPT YouTube channel, which is a great way to share teaching ideas within our community:

IceCube, Bringing Cutting-Edge Science into the Classroom

Casey O’Hara, Carlmont High School, Belmont, CA
In December-January of 2009-2010, I will be going to the South Pole to work with researchers from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, in conjunction with PolarTREC and the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF). The IceCube telescope is the largest research project ever attempted in Antarctica, being built to map out the universe by detecting high-energy neutrinos and cosmic rays. I will be traveling as a PolarTREC teacher to the South Pole in December of 2009 to help work on the IceCube project, while working with five other KSTF Teaching Fellows to bring the IceCube project into our classrooms by following the expedition via an online journal and webinars. This collaboration is being used as a means of exciting students about current polar research and will allow students insight into what “real” scientists do. This presentation will focus on an overview of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and the nature of collaboration between IceCube, PolarTREC, and the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation.

One Year With a $1000 High-Speed Video Camera

Dean Baird, Rio Americano High School, Sacramento, CA
The Casio EX-F1 is a digital still camera with first-in-its-class high-speed video capabilities. In addition to being able to capture full-resolution still images at 60 frames per second, it can capture video at 300, 600, and even 1200 fps. Since the standard video playback rate is 30 fps, the EX-F1 can “slow down” events to 1/10th, 1/20th, or 1/40th of their natural speed. For $1000, you can be Harold Edgerton! One year later, no other consumer camera competes with the EX-F1 for high-speed captures. I’ll show some clips and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this breakthrough camera.

Concept Mapping Software in a High School Physics Class

Lee Trampleasure, Carondelet High School, Concord, CA
Concept maps, or graphic organizers, are a means to organize concepts to form a visual representation of the relationships between these concepts. Research shows that some students gain a better understanding by ‘mapping’ concepts in a spatial manner rather than the more traditional outline format. In my academically-diverse high school physics class, many students struggle to grasp the relationships between the words we use. I will present the software CmapTools, examples of concept maps created by my students (including handdrawn maps), and results of a survey of these students on their perception of the value of CmapTools. CmapTools is free software that runs on Windows, Macs, and Linux. It is both robust and easy to learn. CmapTools was developed by the Institute for Machine and Human Cognition (of which I am not affiliated). IMHC also provides CmapServer, a free program that allows people to share maps over the internet.

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