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Meeting Highlights

129th AAPT National Meeting — Sacramento, CA
July 31–Aug. 4, 2004

The 2004 Summer Meeting, which was AAPT’s 129th National Meeting, was held on the campus of California State University-Sacramento July 31–Aug. 4. The CSUS campus provided a beautiful setting on the banks of the American River for the 1,200 participants who attended the meeting.

The weather was excellent during the entire meeting with daytime temperatures in the mid eighties and low humidity and night time temperatures in the mid fifties. The normal temperatures for this time of year in Sacramento are the mid to upper nineties that were experienced by the Olympic athletes on the CSUS campus two weeks earlier.

In the week preceding the AAPT meeting, the third Summer Institute of the Rural PTRA Initiative was held in the Physics Department at CSUS and 80 Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) attended an intensive week of workshops presented by their fellow PTRA and other professional educators. The PTRA program is extending into more rural areas by establishing Rural Centers at colleges and universities throughout the United States with funding from a National Science Foundation grant. More than 600 teachers participated in workshops at the 25 Rural Centers this summer. By the end of the grant, 33 rural centers will be established and many teachers from predominantly rural areas will join with veteran PTRA in this very successful AAPT program.

About 206 graduate students and faculty attended the PERC2004 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 are publishing proceedings from the conference and additional information is available on the conference website http://web.phys.ksu.edu/perc2004/.

A similar meeting is being planned in conjunction with the 2005 AAPT Summer Meeting at the University of Utah.

Workshop and Continuing Education Opportunities
There were 671 registrants for the 40 workshops and tutorial sessions that were offered during the two days prior to the paper presentations. Varney Johnson and Peter Urone of the CSUS Physics Department were very helpful in making arrangements for the AAPT workshops, as well the PTRA Summer Institute held earlier. Many of the workshops presented ways in which physics concepts can be taught using the results of physics education research or computer-related technologies. Popular workshops included: Video-Based Motion Analysis for Homework and Classroom Use; Matter and Interactions: a Modern Calculus-Based Introductory Course; Demonstrations in Musical Acoustics; VPython: 3D Programming for Ordinary Mortals; Facilitation in the Active-Learning Physics Classroom; Teaching Physics with Purpose; What Every Physics Teacher Should Know About Cognitive Research; and Physics and Toys II-Energy, Momentum, Electricity and Magnetism.

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. The two Physics on the Road: Demonstration Shows & Preparing for WYP05 workshops provided the participants with public outreach activities that could be used during the World Year of Physics. Eleven commercial workshops added additional educational opportunities for meeting attendees.

The Paper Sessions
The meeting offered 161 invited papers, 274 contributed papers, 110 poster papers, and 13 crackerbarrels organized into 105 sessions. A number of well-attended sessions were devoted to pedagogical issues such as sessions entitled Bridging Conceptual Understanding and Problem Solving; Interaction of Student Beliefs and Physics Learning; Representing Complex Learning; Student Problem Solving; and Assessment Issues and Differing Student Audiences.

Many of the sessions had papers that made use of the web or computer applications in the classroom and laboratory. Typical sessions of this type included: Using Video Analysis in Teaching; NSDL: the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Digital Library; Interactive Lecture Demonstrations-Physics Suite Materials That Enhance Learning in Lecture; and On Apparatus and Demonstrations. Other well-attended session included: Sports and the Human Body, Parts I & II; The Music of Physics and the Physics of Music; New Perspectives in High School Physics Teaching; Twentieth Century Apple Trees; and Public Outreach Activities for the World Year of Physics 2005.

The APS Forum on Education (FEd) and the APS Division of Beams sponsored a special session The Physics of Beams and the Accelerators That Produce Them. Sessions sponsored by FEd and other APS divisions are being planned for future meetings. The meeting also provided an opportunity for undergraduate students to showcase their research in a special poster session and a paper session titled SPS Undergraduate Research. Visit the online abstract archive to view abstracts of papers presented at the 2004 Summer Meeting and past meetings.

Award and Plenary Sessions
At Monday’s Ceremonial Session, James L. Hicks, recipient of the Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching Award, discussed bridging activities that he uses in his classroom to move students from concrete only learners to students who can think abstractly in his talk Tango On. Hicks uses a model of instruction where the students physically experience the phenomena before they discuss, derive or problem solve. For example, a student is attached to a bungee cord and becomes the mass for a simple harmonic motion demonstration. He refers to this as “riding the equations.” Hicks currently teaches at Barrington High School in Barrington, Illinois.

Robert Brown, recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching Award, discussed how his approach to teaching physics has changed during 30 years of teaching undergraduate physics in his talk The Fourth Decade. Brown shared with the audience how he plans to use what he has learned in the first three decades of his career as he begins the fourth decade. Brown is professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

At the Tuesday Ceremonial Session, Anton Zeilinger, University of Vienna, delivered the Klopsteg Memorial Lecture, Quantum Experiments: From Philosophical Curiosity to a New Technology. Zeilinger discussed two recent experimental developments: the distribution of entanglement and quantum teleportation over large distances and detailed studies of quantum interference in macromolecules such as buckyballs. According to Zeilinger, these experiments are not only interesting from a fundamental point of view, but they form the basis for a new information technology including quantum cryptography and quantum computing. This award is given in memory of Paul Klopsteg, a principal founder, a former President, and a 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 non-specialists.

Ken Krane, Oregon State University, gave the Robert A. Millikan Award Lecture, The Challenge of Teaching Modern Physics. According to Krane, the introductory modern physics course is a transitional course that bridges from introductory physics to the rigorous upper-division program for both physics content and mathematical skills. Krane discussed issues of content and pedagogy for the course and gave examples of content from his own course. Krane is a respected author and co-author of introductory, modern and nuclear physics textbooks. The Millikan Award recognizes teachers who have made notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics.

Three plenary sessions provided additional physics content for the meeting and highlighted the diversity of physics as a field of study. Neville Smith, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, discussed how large-scale research facilities are being utilized by many small-scale researchers in his talk Big Science in the Service of Small Science. Smith discussed how synchrotron radiation has evolved from a by-product of accelerated electrons to dedicated facilities that can be used by researchers with a wide range of interests from nanotechnology to molecular biologists. In his talk The Gravest Danger: Nuclear Weapons and Their Proliferation, Sidney Drell, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, discussed what can and should be done to sustain and strengthen the non-proliferation regime, given the current terrorist threats, technical realities, and the role and limits of diplomatic initiatives and military force. The United States has not signed the non-proliferation treaty and Congress recently approved the continued development of “bunker buster” nuclear weapons. According to Drell, these weapons would have little impact on bunkers buried more than 100 m deep and their use would have a tremendous environmental impact. Their continued development also poses severe diplomatic problems. Drell stressed the importance of scientists becoming involved in public policy issues where an understanding of technical realities is essential for sensible policy choices.

In her talk Drilling for Life on Mars, Carol Stoker, NASA Ames Research Center, reviewed the evidence for liquid water beneath the Martian surface. Stoker then shared data from a drilling project in Rio Tinto, Spain, designed to simulate a possible scenario for finding evidence of subsurface life on Mars.

Exhibits and Demos
The physics photo contest attracted a great deal of attention and many favorable comments. Vernier Software & Technology provided the prizes for the winners. The 100 semi-finalist photos were conveniently located near the registration area and exhibit hall where more than 35 vendors displayed their products. The exhibit area with available refreshments provided a good central location to meet colleagues and talk about teaching physics during morning and afternoon breaks in the concurrent sessions. The three poster sessions also took place in the exhibit area with one third of the posters being displayed each day of the meeting. The AAPT Committee on Apparatus conducted the annual apparatus competition and pictures and descriptions of the entries are available at http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/r/e/ref7/apparatus/.

The apparatus competition entries were on display during the meeting in the PIRA resource room. PASCO Scientific provides prizes for the apparatus competition.

In Conclusion
More than 500 meeting participants attended the “Picnic Extravaganza” on Monday evening on the grounds of PASCO Scientific in nearby Roseville. They were joined by PASCO employees who were celebrating the 40th anniversary of PASCO’s founding by Paul Stokstad. Tours of PASCO’s facilities were provided by the PASCO employees and picnic entertainment was provided by the Outlaws of Physics band. The demonstration show following the meal featured a caber toss, whirlies, the bed of nails, an Olympic shot putter and Dave Willey walking on hot coals.

On Tuesday evening, the Physics Phun for Everyone! demonstration show featured the bubble blowing antics of Tom Noddy and demonstrations by Chris Chiaverina, Paul Hewitt and Paul Robinson. Approximately 80 attendees participated in tailgating party at a San Francisco Giants baseball game on Saturday prior to the meeting arranged for by loyal Giant fan Paul Robinson and many meeting attendees made it downtown to visit Old Sacramento and the California state capitol.

The CSUS campus was very welcoming to participants and the meeting was well organized by AAPT staff with assistance from the university staff, especially Peter Urone and Varney Johnson from the Physics Department.

Warren W. Hein, Associate Executive Officer