2 Weeks until Spring 2015 WPA-AAPT Meeting

Please consider presenting at the Spring Meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.
March 14th, 2015 (Pi Day!) at Grove City College in Grove City PA. Events will kick off at 8:30 AM with a student poster session.
To present, reply to this e-mail ( bal23@psu.edu ) and include:
Name, e-mail, and affiliation of presenter
Names, e-mails, and affiliations of any associated non-presenting authors
A title
A short abstract (up to 100 words)
If possible, please try to have your abstracts in by Monday, March 9th. We will happily accept late abstracts, but abstracts in by Monday will help us a great deal with the planning and scheduling process.
NOTE: This year, for the first time in a while, we will be hosting a student poster session as part of the meeting. Please consider having your students present a poster! See below for more information.
If you don’t want to present, please attend; these meetings are a great opportunity for making connections with other local physicists and physics teachers.
Hope to see you there!
Additional message from the Grove City College Physics Department:
Grove City College is pleased to be hosting the Spring, 2015 meeting of the Western Pennsylvania section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, on March 14, 2015.  We have a few atypical events scheduled that we would like to draw your attention to.  More information will be forthcoming during the next week.
·         Student Research Poster competition.  Please encourage your students to attend and to present.  Abstracts should be clearly marked for “student poster session” and should be submitted to Beth Lindsey (bal23@psu.edu) no later than Monday, March 9.  The poster session will kick off the meeting, running from 8:30 – 9:30 AM.
·         Judges needed for Student Research Poster competition.  If you are willing to serve as a judge, please emailgamarsch@gcc.edu.
·         Two parallel workshops which will run for 1-2 hours following the business meeting.  Pre-registration by March 9 is preferred but not required.
o   SPS Career Toolbox Workshop for students and their mentors, led by SPS director Sean Bentley.  The Career Toolbox (http://www.spsnational.org/careerstoolbox/) is a phenomenal resource to help physics students explore career options and prepare for job searches.  While designed for physics majors entering the workplace, the Toolbox has valuable tools for graduate-school-bound students too.  The workshop will introduce the product and work through some of the activities such as translating physics experience into specific skills to list on a resume.  Students will participate in the toolbox activities, and mentors will be trained in helping their students use the toolbox.  Attendees are encouraged to pre-register by emailing djwagner@gcc.edu before March 9, and indicating whether you are a student or a mentor, to ensure adequate resources are available.  But walk-ins are welcome too.
o   Best Practices in Teaching about Light Workshop, facilitated by Bill Bradley.  Bring your most effective light-based demo or other teaching tool (and a one-page summary), or just come to glean ideas from others. Attendees are encouraged to pre-register by emailing djwagner@gcc.edu, and indicating what, if any, teaching tool you will be bringing, to ensure adequate resources are available.  But walk-ins are welcome too.
·         Lunch details are still being worked out, but we may need a head count of those eating on campus.  Watch for emails closer to the date.

Spring 2015 Meeting

Save the Date!    
WPA AAPT Spring Meeting
3.14 (pi day)
Grove City College, Grove City PA
Host: DJ Wagner
To present,  e-mail ( bal23@psu.edu ) and include:
Name, e-mail, and affiliation of presenter
Names, e-mails, and affiliations of any associated non-presenting authors
A title
A short abstract (up to 100 words)
It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be about physics, or teaching physics!

Fall 2014 Meeting – Thiel College

The Fall 2014 meeting is just around the corner!  If you haven’t submitted your abstract yet, please do so (see the post below for information.)  This post is meant to provide you with some additional information.  As soon as the schedule is developed, it will be posted here.


Invited Speaker:  Megan Nagel, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

Potential Energy: Perspectives from a Chemist

Recently, the topic of energy has been receiving increased attention in science education research literature, highlighting an interdisciplinary approach to the topic.   In chemistry courses alone, the topic of energy is introduced in numerous contexts including bond enthalpies, quantized energy, lattice energy, intermolecular forces, and nuclear energy.  The basis for many of these topics begins with an understanding of potential energy and electrostatic interactions which goes beyond that reached in a typical first-semester physics course.  So while students have not been exposed to the relevant content in physics, chemistry faculty operate under the assumption that a foundation is present for describing processes involving electrostatically interacting particles and their associated energies.  Our recent work has found that even after the appropriate instruction in both chemistry and physics, the majority of students still struggle to describe the basic relationship between particle position and electrostatic potential energy.  In particular, students do not spontaneously draw on concepts from physics when asked about energy in chemical contexts. We are researching the efficacy of an instructional sequence of scaffolded questions to help guide students to make relevant connections between their existing knowledge of gravitational potential energy and the required knowledge of electrostatic potential energy necessary for understanding countless chemical interactions.

Campus Map:




Local Accommodation Information:

  • Bethaven Inn- 386 Hamilton Avenue, Meadville, Pa. 16335
  • Buhl Mansion- 422 East State Street, Sharon, Pa. 16146
  • Casa DaCosta Bed & Breakfast- 116 West Market Street, Mercer, Pa. 16137
  • Cianci’s Motel- 395 Mercer Road, Greenville, Pa. 16125
  • Colonial Inn Motel- 383 North Perry Highway Route 19, North Mercer, Pa. 16137
  • Farma Family Campground- 87 Hughey Road, Greenville, Pa. 16125
  • Holiday Inn Express- 18240 Conneaut Lake Road, Meadville, Pa. 16335
  • Holiday Inn Express- 3060 Spangler Road, West Middlesex, Pa. 16159
  • Mayor Lord’s House Bed & Breakfast- 654 Park Avenue, Meadville, Pa. 16335
  • Mercer Motel- 213 Franklin Street (Junction 19 and 62), Mercer, Pa. 16137
  • Monroe Heights Hotel- 2049 Leesburg-Grove City Road, Grove City, Pa. 16127
  • Park Inn by Radisson- 3377 New Castle Road, West Middlesex, Pa. 16159
  • Plant’s Herb Farm Bed & Breakfast- 104 South Foster Road, Mercer, Pa. 16137
  • Seven Sisters Bed & Breakfast- 810 Hamburg Road, Fredonia, Pa. 16124
  • Quality Inn of Hermitage- 3200 South Hermitage Road, Hermitage, Pa. 16159
  • Red Roof Inn- 2700 Wilson Road, Hermitage, Pa. 16148
  • Tara, A Country Inn- 2844 Lake Road, Clark, Pa. 16113

Call for Abstracts – Fall Meeting

Please consider presenting at the Fall Meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers:   October 18th, 2014 at Thiel College in Greenville PA.
To present, e-mail ( bal23@psu.edu ) and include:
Name, e-mail, and affiliation of presenter
Names, e-mails, and affiliations of any associated non-presenting authors
A title
A short abstract (up to 100 words)
It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be about physics, or teaching physics.
If you don’t want to present, please attend; these meetings are a great opportunity for making connections with other local physicists and physics teachers.
If you have any venue specific issues, please contact the host, Patrick Hecking, at pecking@thiel.edu.

Spring Meeting at Monessen – Agenda

Spring 2014 Meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Section of the AAPT

Monessen High School

Monessen, PA


Agenda (may be modified at the discretion of the Executive Committee)

 8:00-9:00         Registration. Continental breakfast provided.

 9:00-9:15         Opening and Welcome Remarks

 9:15-9:30         Tucek, Ryan (Penn Trafford High School): Teaching Physics with Modeling Instruction

June 16 – July 3, Saint Vincent College will host a three-week, 14-day summer workshop to train high school teachers in the use of model-centered, constructivist method.Participants rotate through roles of students and instructor as they practice techniques of guided inquiry and cooperative learning. Plans and techniques for raising the level of discourse in classroom discussion and student presentations are emphasized.The workshop immerses teachers in physics (mechanics) content. All units are designed to promote understanding and improve student retention demonstrated by research on modeling methodology. Teachers commit to attending each day during the 3-week institute. Each teacher receives a flash drive containing the entire Modeling curriculum and a free one-year membership to the AMTA, 6 constant velocity buggies, and 10 white boards.

 9:30-9:45         Buxton, Gavin (Robert Morris University): The physics behind a simple demonstration of the greenhouse effect

A simple, and popular, demonstration of the greenhouse effect involves a higher temperature being observed in a container with an elevated concentration of CO2 inside than in a container with just air enclosed, when subject to direct light. The absorption of infrared radiation due to the enclosed CO2 is measured, and a one-dimensional model of heat transfer is solved. It is found that the temperature of the enclosed air is significantly higher inside the container with an elevated concentration of CO2 inside, validating this demonstration.

 9:45-10:00       Cho, Shinil (LaRoche): Questions always wanted to ask colleagues

There are several questions that many instructors would have while teaching physics at a small college.  With many factors including new discoveries in physics, development of technology, social/cultural change, different generations of students, and limited contact time, we have been changing the course content and the teaching methodology of general physics in various ways. Some examples will be presented to seek tips for better lecture and laboratory sessions.

 10:00-10:15     Antolin, Justin and Dieterle, William (California University of Pennsylvania): Physics on a Budget:  Calorimetric Determination of Laser Power

Commercial laser power ratings often are only approximations, with more attention being paid to the class of laser for safety purposes than to the actual (often varying by unit) wattage.  Photodiode detectors for exact measurements are beyond the budget of most small high schools and colleges. A method of measurement of laser power using a calorimeter commonly available in most departments is described and results are presented.

 10:15-10:30     Break

 10:30-10:45     Clark, Benjamin and Walters, Clifford (California University of Pennsylvania): Construction of a Working Plasma Speaker Using Readily Available Materials.

Using inexpensive readily available materials a portable working plasma speaker has been designed and constructed.  Theory, design, cost and safety issues will be discussed followed by a demonstration of the speaker itself.

 10:45-11:00     Freda, Ron and Sobelewski, Stan (Indiana University of Pennsylvania): The Effectiveness of Peer Instruction on Non-Science Students Enrolled In A Physical Science Class.

Peer tutoring, as developed by Eric Mazur and others has been shown to enhance conceptual understanding of Newton’s law of motion as measured by the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). In this method of instruction, multiple choice questions are presented to the class. Students offer individual responses either with an electronic personal response device or alphanumeric flash cards.  The instructor then reviews the responses; if a majority of the students did not select the correct answer, the instructor tells the students in the class to discuss their answer with their peers and vote again.  According to Mazur, the critical step in this process is the peer discussion.  In our study, we used two sections of Physical Science, a Physics course for non-science majors. When replicating the technique used by Mazur, we found not difference between peer tutoring and control group. We will discuss this result and offer other findings.

 11:00-12:00     Invited Presentation: Maries, Alexandru (University of Pittsburgh)

Alexandru Maries is the postdoctoral scholar for the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC).  He obtained his Ph.D. recently in physics education research at University of Pittsburgh and will present findings relevant for teaching and learning of physics at all levels.

 12:00-1:30       Lunch

 1:30-1:45         Ritchie, Jessica; Li, Cash and Gasseller, Morewell (Mercyhurst): Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Investigation of Carbon Nanotubes and Gold                        Nanoparticles.

A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is an instrument in which a sharp metallic probe scanned across a sample surface is employed to detect changes in surface features on an atomic scale. STM enables us to study surface structure, electronic structure and chemical properties of the surface at the atomic scale. Here we describe our ongoing work on the use of STM to study gold nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes deposited on Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite (HOPG) and gold substrates.

 1:45-2:00         Hecking, Patrick (Thiel):  Micro-Scale Wind, Hydro, and Solar Energy Student Projects.

Research on micro-scale wind, hydro, and solar devices (10 W to 1 kW) makes for interesting student projects. Additionally, the exhibition of completed projects in a visible location on campus helps to educate the general college population about energy alternatives. Small water wheels have been tested using a rain gutter, and wind wheels using a fan. A solar panel is planned to drive a demonstration LEGO train, and a person-size water wheel has been constructed.

2:00-2:15         Reiland, Robert (CPEP): A Fabricated Universe.

An easy-to-make portable stretched sheet will be described and shown. In addition to the usual gravitational simulation with a weight on the sheet, a few other simulations will be suggested, including:

1. Dark Matter Seeding of the formation of the early universe

2. Gravitational Lensing

3. The storage of negative energy in gravitational fields.

Activities for all of these simulations are in the draft stage as part of future workshops to be offered by the Cosmology Division of the Contemporary Physics Educational Project. Correspondence concerning future drafts of these activities and suggestions for improvements will be welcome and can be sent to robreiland1@comcast.net.

2:15-2:30         Willson, Keith and Takahashi, Leo (Penn State Beaver): A Lecture Demonstration of the Einstein-de Haas Effect

In teaching physics, it is often more effective to show than to tell. With this in mind, we turn our attention to the Einstein – de Haas experiment, often referred to (incorrectly) as Albert Einstein’s only foray into the experimental side of physics. In a series of papers published in 1915 and 1916, Einstein and the Dutch physicist Wander Johannes de Haas presented their experimental work showing a connection between mechanical angular momentum and the magnetic moment and spin of particles. In this presentation we will show how this phenomenon can be demonstrated in a small classroom or laboratory setting using (mostly) commonly available materials.

2:30-2:45         Bradley, Bill (New Castle High School): Trebuchets as Physics Projects
I would like to present some of my experiences using Trebuchets as a project in first year Physics. This has been a popular project with my students and an interesting way to explore work, energy, and a surprising number of physics concepts.

 2:45-3:00         Martin, Kevin (Pitt Johnstown): Quantization in Music: An Interesting Take On How Fret Placement On A Guitar is Determined

The “pitch” interpreted by the ear of a sound is ultimately determined by the frequency (f) emitted by the instrument. For a stringed instrument, it is the frequency of the vibration. In general, the spectra of sound is continuous, but most (if not all), cultures have subdivided the octave (frequency from f to 2f) into a finite number of intervals (eight, twelve and sixteen appear common). For the “even-tempered scale” (twelve), it will be shown there is an interesting quantization rule that determines the placement of frets. This view can be useful when searching for an analogy for, say, the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom.

3:00-3:15         Late Abstracts and Break

3:15-3:30         Business Meeting, drawings, giveaways and other fun stuff.

Have a safe drive home!

The Fall Meeting at Gannon

Thank you very much to those of you who came out to Gannon for our Fall Meeting.   The rain didn’t dampen the spirit any – we had great talks and great conversation as always.  Special recognition is owed to Nick Conklin and the Gannon faculty who put together a great meeting for us.   We will look forward to seeing both old and new faces in the Spring!