All posts by David Marasco

Dependent Care Grants

Our chapter has received limited funding that allows us to subsidize dependent care costs for members who otherwise would not be able to attend.  We can distribute grants of $75 for parents/caregivers with one dependent or $150 for multiple dependents.  Applications are due October 20 October 27 (two weeks one week before our meeting).  If you are interested in applying, please complete the form below.


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.  If you paid dues last Spring, registration is free (we’ll send you an email with a discount code), otherwise dues are $20 through Wednesday November 1, $25 at the door. Click here to register for Saturday:

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.

Does this sound great?  But you have kids or other loved ones you care for and can’t come?  We have a grant that will help us subsidize your dependent care!  Click this link for details.


Friday Night Social
We will be at the Mission Science Workshop located at 3750 18th Street in San Francisco.

People can start showing up at 6–we will have food and folks can explore the workshop. From 6:30-7:30pm we’ll start showing our 2 main exhibits for the evening: 1) our DIY solar unit and 2) a variety of radioactive rocks and ceramics with our Geiger counters hooked up to speakers, showing different ways to demo. The rest of the evening folks are welcome to explore and hang out until we close the doors at 9pm.

There will be a $10 flat fee for food: beans, rice, corn tortillas, salsa, guacamole, and meat, so folks can eat Mexican and vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free eaters will be OK.

Please RSVP at


Tentative Saturday Schedule:
8:00 Doors and Registration Opens

8:30 Poster Session
Do you have something neat to share with your fellow physics teachers? We’ve got a poster session. Even better, we subsidize posters. If you are K-12 or a grad student, we’ll print your poster for free. Click on for more details.

9:00 A Tribute to Paul Doherty featuring Favorite Demos
We recently lost long-time chapter member Paul Doherty. A series of speakers will show us their favorite demos that they learned from Paul.  If you want to share a Paul-inspired demo, drop us a line at

10:00 Invited Speaker – Brian Holmes, The Physics of Brass Musical Instruments

I will explain and demonstrate the physics of brass instruments.  During the talk I will build a trumpet, showing the acoustics of its various sections; show why brass instruments have valves instead  of side holes to get different notes; tootle an alphorn and a keyed bugle;  explain what horn players do with their right hands (while playing their instruments.)


11:15 Group Photo
Let those pesky administrators know you were here by showing them the photo of you and your physics family.

11:30 Lunch!
Yes, this will be tacos and topic tables.  We’ll also do another go-around of posters for late-comers.

1:00 Invited Speaker – Mary Roach
Mary Roach is the author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, Packing for Mars and Grunt. She uses humor to help bring science to a general audience. We’ll be able to pick her brains in a Q&A session.

2:15 Break

2:30 Expert Panel – Transgendered in School
People who identify as transgendered are becoming more visible in our classrooms, this panel will explore how to best serve them.

3:30 Share & Tell
You have five minutes to show us your cool new (or new to us) demo.  We will bring our dreaded gong.  Please bring 80 copies of any handouts.

4:30 Official Close

A link to Google Maps (we are at the Ocean campus).

There is free parking in the Upper Reservoir Lot:

It is never too early to think about carpooling:

Or public transportation:

More details will be posted in the coming weeks.

Spring Meeting – Mt. Diablo HS – April 28/29

We’ll be in Concord for our Spring Meeting!

Our keynote speaker is Jessie Dotson, project scientist for NASA’s K2 Mission.  Invited Speaker Jessie DotsonPictured to the right, she’ll tell us about recent Kepler results.  We’ll also have all of the other things that make our meetings so much fun,  Share&Tell, a panel, workshops and we are bringing back the poster session. If you paid dues last Fall, registration is free (we’ll send you an email with a discount code), otherwise dues are $20 through Wednesday night, $25 at the door. Click here to register for the main event: Continue reading Spring Meeting – Mt. Diablo HS – April 28/29

In Memoriam – Elender Wall

I’m very sad to report the daughter of one of our longtime members and contributors Dave Wall of City College of San Francisco, Elender Wall, passed away last Monday evening from complications of thyroid cancer.  She was 47 years old.  Dave was well-known for his demos that involved magic tricks, and years later his daughter Elender joined our ranks. Despite her musical training in voice at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, she degreed in physics and went on to edit and distribute Dave’s textbook Introductory Physics: A Problem-Solving Approach.  Continue reading In Memoriam – Elender Wall

Fall Meeting is at Cal – October 21/22

We are returning to Berkeley for our Fall meeting!

Friday October 21

For those that are driving in the night before, or folks who just like to hang out with other physics teachers, we’ve got some Friday night events.  We’ll meet at 6 at Pyramids Restaurant:  They feature Egyptian fare, but of course you can always get a burger.  At 8 we’ll be at the telescopes at the Chabot Science Center: Continue reading Fall Meeting is at Cal – October 21/22

Spring Conference – April 22/23 at Foothill College

We’ll be back at Foothill in April!

We are very pleased to have Carl Wieman, 2001 Nobel Prize winner, and the driving force behind the PhET simulations, as our keynote speaker.  The title of his talk is “Taking a scientific approach to teaching physics.”

Continue reading Spring Conference – April 22/23 at Foothill College

Fall Conference – Nov. 13/14, 2015 @ Sacramento State University

Maps and carpool info are at the bottom of the page.

Draft Schedule (Subject to Revision)

Friday Evening Program

No-Host Dinner
We will meet for food and socializing, at Sacramento State’s University Union.
SPS Event – Josh Moss on Recent Discoveries at Atlas
Sac State’s SPS chapter is hosting a free-to-the-public event on campus and we are invited! Josh Moss will give a talk on what’s been going at the ATLAS experiment at CERN.

Saturday Program at Mendocino Hall 1015

Continue reading Fall Conference – Nov. 13/14, 2015 @ Sacramento State University

Call for Posters

Are you doing something that should be shared with other physics teachers?  Will it take more time than the five-minute limit in Share-and-Tell?  In that case, please sign up to present a poster.  We’ll start the conference with our poster session, and have another go at them during lunch.

In order to encourage people to contribute posters, we will print 3×2 posters at a subsidized rate, free for K-12 teachers and grad students, and $25 for college and university professors. These posters should be submitted as PDF files, and this offer has a deadline of October 30.  Once your abstract is registered, you will be emailed additional instructions.

What topics can be covered?  Anything that tickles your fancy as a physics teacher that you think will help our community.  This could be a neat experiment, original research, cool projects for your students, a report-back from a field trip that worked, an innovative way to approach grading, or anything else that you would like to share with fellow teachers.

But what if you’ve never done a poster?  Here are some templates plus a sample poster:

Here are some more links that might help get you started:

At the end of the day, don’t get too caught up on how pretty or ugly the poster looks, we want to hear your ideas!

For those printing out their own posters, let’s max out at roughly four feet by four feet.

Let’s Save Physics Teachers Some Money

If you were at our last meeting, you heard that we were going to change our dues structure.  Due to a generous annual donation from the Foothill College Physics Show, we will be able to reduce membership costs to in-the-trenches physics teachers.  We will no longer charge fees for our meetings, but will instead revert to a membership model.  When you attend a meeting, you will be required to pay a year’s worth of dues.  These will be set at $25, although if you register via the web we will discount to $20.  Membership covers two meetings (plus associated meals).

Here’s a quick FAQ:

Continue reading Let’s Save Physics Teachers Some Money