AAPT.org - American Association of Physics Teachers

Meeting Highlights

125th National Meeting — Boise, ID
Aug. 3-7, 2002

The 125th AAPT National Meeting returned to the campus of Boise State University (BSU) on the ninth anniversary of the first AAPT Summer Meeting in Boise. The BSU campus, on the banks of the Boise River, provided a beautiful setting for the approximately 1000 participants who attended the meeting. The weather was excellent during the entire meeting with daytime temperatures in the mid-80s and low humidity. It was a welcome departure from the heat and humidity that many participants were experiencing in other parts of the United States.

In the week preceding the AAPT meeting, the sixth Summer Institute of the PTRA Urban Initiative was held in the BSU Physics Department, and 125 Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRAs) attended an intensive week of workshops presented by fellow PTRAs and other professional educators.

The PTRA program continues to grow. AAPT recently received a new grant from the National Science Foundation to extend the program into rural areas by establishing Rural Centers at colleges and universities throughout the United States. By the end of the grant, 30 centers will be established, and many teachers from predominantly rural areas will join with veteran PTRA in this very successful AAPT program. More than 500 teachers have participated in one or more of the PTRA Summer Institutes. Additional information about the PTRA program, including pictures from this year's institute, can be found on the PTRA website.

About 180 graduate students and faculty attended the Physics Education Research Conference at the end of the AAPT meeting to share information and discuss a variety of physics education research issues. Poster sessions and breakout groups were utilized to encourage participation and aid in exchange of ideas. The conference organizers will publish proceedings from the conference;additional information is available on the conference website.

Workshop and Continuing Education Opportunities
There were 730 registrants for the 40 workshops and tutorial sessions that were offered during the two days prior to the paper presentations. Richard Reimann and Duane Warn of the BSU Physics Department were very helpful in making arrangements for the AAPT workshops, as well the PTRA Summer Institute held earlier. Many workshops presented ways in which physics concepts can be taught using computer-related technologies. Some of the most popular workshops of this type were those that involved the use of the World Wide Web for delivery of course materials. Workshops that utilized MBL tools and simulation software continued to be very popular. Popular workshops included: Video-Based Motion Analysis for Homework and Classroom Use; Developing Interactive Java-Based Pedagogy for the Classroom; Fun Experiments and Demos in Light, Color, and Spectroscopy; An Introduction to Standardized Assessment Instruments for Novices; Order of Magnitude Physics: Lies, Damn Lies, and Approximations; and Physics and Toys — Physics Fun for Everyone.

Members of the Physics Instructional Research Association (PIRA) again presented a two-day lecture demonstration workshop that was very popular and two workshops on introductory and intermediate educational laboratories that attracted many participants. Twelve commercial workshops added additional educational opportunities for meeting attendees.

The Paper Sessions
The meeting offered 86 invited papers, 281 contributed papers, 95 poster papers, and 14 crackerbarrels organized into 96 sessions. Many of the sessions had papers that involved the use of the web or computer applications in the classroom and laboratory. Typical sessions of this type included: Teaching Physics with Spreadsheets; Use of the Web in Pre-College Physics/Physical Science Teaching; Curriculum Developments Using Open-Source Software; The MERLOT Project; Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) in Physics; Video-Capture Techniques for High School Physics; and Instructional Media and Technology for Teaching and Learning Physics.

Several sessions were devoted to pedagogical issues such as sessions entitled PER: Research on the Use of Technology; PER: Topics in Physics Education Research; New, Interesting Ways to Teach Laboratory; Enhancing Physics Learning in Lecture Beyond Newton's Laws with Interactive Lecture Demonstrations; Action Research: Using Research in the Classroom to Improve Practice; and Teaching the Undergraduate Introductory Electronics Course, I and II.

Several sessions such as Physical Science for Middle Schools and Middle School Teachers, Mentoring and Induction of New Teachers, Preparation of Middle and High School Teachers, Preparation and Certification of Middle School Teachers, and Preparing K-12 Teachers provided information on programs for teacher preparation and support for novice teachers. The National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics shared preliminary results from Project SPIN-UP (Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics) in one session, and several sessions labeled Best Energy Bites addressed the general meeting theme of energy. The meeting also provided an opportunity for undergraduate students to showcase their research in a session titled SPS Undergraduate Research. The abstracts for all papers presented at the 125th National Meeting are available online.

At the Boise meeting, a high school junior also presented a paper. Anjali Manivannan, who is Kandiah Manivannan's daughter, presented a talk on the Use of Matrix Methods in Geometrical Optics on Spreadsheet. This is Anjali's second presentation at an AAPT National Meeting.

Award and Plenary Sessions
At Monday's Ceremonial Session, Lowell G. Herr, recipient of the Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching Award, reviewed how microcomputer-based laboratories have changed the way introductory physics is taught in his talk Project PHYSLab: Improving High School Physics Labs. Herr has been one of the leaders of Project PHYSLab that over the past 10 years has helped more than 320 physics teachers become familiar with the use of computer software and hardware for the collection and analysis of data. Herr suggested that there are still many improvements that can be made in the way high school science is taught, including integrating laboratory activities into the textbook and integrating the sciences without diluting biology, chemistry, or physics. Herr currently teaches at the Catlin Gable School in Portland, Ore.

In his talk entitled Some Thoughts on Teaching Introductory Physics, Thomas L. O'Kuma, recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching Award, discussed how his approach to teaching physics has changed. O'Kuma shared with the audience how colleagues, students, and various professional development opportunities have changed his approach to teaching introductory physics during his career. O'Kuma has presented many workshops on the use of microcomputer-based laboratories, especially to the two-year college community, and has collaborated with several colleagues on development of conceptual assessments in electricity and magnetism and the Tasks Inspired by Physics Education Research (TIPERs).

At the Tuesday Ceremonial Session, Barry C. Barish, California Institute of Technology, delivered the Klopsteg Memorial Lecture, Catching the Waves with LIGO. Barish gave an update on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities that are nearing completion and will be used to search for gravitational waves in the near future. Barish also discussed improvements that are planned for LIGO that will increase its sensitivity by an order of magnitude. The Klopsteg Award is given in memory of Paul Klopsteg, a principal founder, former President, and longtime active member of AAPT. Recipients are chosen to give a major lecture at the AAPT Summer Meeting on a topic of current significance suitable for nonspecialists.

Simon George, of California State University, Long Beach, gave the Robert A. Millikan Award Lecture: Global Study of the Role of the Laboratory in Physics Education. For more than 30 years, George has been visiting foreign countries and studying the role of the laboratory in the physics curricula of these countries. Although many countries do an excellent job of preparing their students in the content knowledge of physics, most countries do not have laboratory equipment or facilities comparable to what is available to students in the United States. George believes that U.S. educators can play a significant role in improving the laboratory facilities in many foreign countries. The Millikan Award recognizes teachers who have made notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics.

James Stith, Director of AIP's Physics Resource Center, presented Fred Bortz with the 2002 AIP Children's Science Writing Award. Bortz received the award for his book Techno-Matter: The Materials Behind the Marvels.

Three plenary sessions highlighted the diverse nature of physics. Dennis J. Geist, University of Idaho Department of Geology, and Karen S. Harpp, Colgate University Department of Geology, discussed the physics behind volcanic eruptions in their talk Bubbles, Bangs, and Ballistics in Boise: The Physics of Volcanic Eruptions. Using the eruption of Mount St. Helens as an example, Geist and Harpp showed how various measurements made before, during, and after a volcanic eruption could be used with basic physical laws to understand the processes that lead to the eruption. As part of their talk, Geist and Harpp shared several interesting demonstrations, including the explosion of a plastic soft drink bottle filled with liquid nitrogen and immersed in a water bath. This latter demonstration was done outside, much to the relief of the BSU staff in charge of the auditorium.

Leon Lederman, Nobel laureate and former director of Fermilab, made a compelling case for Physics First in his talk, A Vision of 21st-Century High School: Project ARISE. Lederman, who is currently at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, discussed the need for an integrated science curriculum that can build on physics as the most fundamental science, followed by chemistry, and then biology. Lederman views this as a natural sequence since chemistry builds on the fundamental laws of physics that determine atomic and molecular structure, and modern molecular biology builds on a knowledge of basic chemistry. Project ARISE (Applications Reforms In Secondary Education), based in the Chicago area, proposes to make the requisite changes in science teaching.

Al Bartlett, University of Colorado at Boulder, received a standing ovation for his talk entitled Arithmetic, Population, and Energy. Bartlett contends, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." Bartlett examined the consequences of steady growth on population and energy resources and led the audience to the conclusion that there are limits to sustainable growth.

Storyteller Susan Marie Frontczak presented a theatrical performance of the life and person of Marie Curie in her one-person play, Manya: A Living History of Marie Curie. Frontczak received a standing ovation from the audience for her two-hour performance where she took on the person of Marie Curie for the audience.

Exhibits and Demos
The High School Physics Photo Contest attracted a great deal of attention and many favorable comments. The names of the winners appear inside the front and back covers of this Announcer, and Vernier Software & Technology provided the prizes for the winners. Pictures and descriptions of the entries are available online. The photos were conveniently located near the exhibit hall, where vendors displayed their products in more than 35 exhibit spaces. The exhibit area, with available refreshments, provided a good central location to meet colleagues and talk about teaching physics during morning and afternoon breaks. The three Poster Sessions also took place in the exhibit area with one third of the posters were displayed each day of the meeting. The AAPT Committee on Apparatus conducted the annual Apparatus Competition. PASCO scientific provided prizes for the Apparatus Competition.

In Conclusion
More than 545 meeting participants attended the picnic on Monday evening in Julia Davis Park across the Boise River from the campus. The picnic featured Basque cuisine, and entertainment was provided by the Oinkari Basque dancers. Following the picnic, some brave souls participated in the second Potato Olympics conducted by Dick Reimann.

On Tuesday evening, members of the Idaho-Utah Section presented "The Daring Physics Demo Show." Many people from the Boise community joined AAPT meeting attendees for this annual event that delighted the children, as well as the adults in the crowd. Other opportunities available to attendees at the meeting included tours of Micron Technology, a visit to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, rafting on the Boise River, and a recital of the Austin organ in the Hemingway Center. The Boise community was very welcoming to participants, and there were many hotels and eating places within easy walking distance of the campus. The meeting was well-organized by AAPT staff with assistance from the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau and university staff.

The 126th National Meeting will be held Jan. 11-15, 2003, in Austin, Texas. I look forward to seeing many of you in January.
Warren W. Hein, Associate Executive Officer