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History of AAPT — Recent Activities

The last few years have seen AAPT initiate a wide range of new activities. In the earlier section on teacher education mention was made of the Topical Conference on Teacher Institutes and Workshops, the Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) Program, the Resource Kit for New Physics Teachers, the High School Physics Achievement Test, and the participation in the Presidential Awards for Science Teaching. These were included in the earlier sections to maintain the organization by topics, but they are part of the expanded program decided upon by the board on the recommendation of the Executive Officer. During late 1982 and early 1983 there was brought to the Board a series of proposals designed to increase AAPT's outreach to both college and pre-college physics teachers. Some of the proposals, such as the expansion of the AAPT workshop program and the initiation of the Visiting Fellows Program, were simply outgrowths of the existing AAPT programs. Others, such as the Topical Conference Series (co-sponsored by AAPT and APS) and the PTRA Program, were entirely new ventures.

The physics department chairs conference on "The Education of Physicists," was held September 30-October 1, 1983. One hundred and sixty-three (twice the number expected) attended the meeting held in the Washington, DC, area. G.A. Keyworth, the President's Science Advisor, and Edward Knapp, the new Director of NSF, were among the speakers.
At the 1986 Winter Meeting in Atlanta, the Executive Board voted to sponsor participation by a team of U.S. high school students in the International Physics Olympiad (IPhO). On short notice, Jack Wilson, Ronald Edge, and Arthur Eisenkraft assembled a team for the XVII IPhO in London in July 1986. Under the leadership of Arthur Eisenkraft (1986-92), Larry Kirkpatrick (1993-95), and Dwight E. Neuenschwander (1996-97), AAPT has continued to be responsible for selecting and training the U.S. Physics Team. In July 1993 the United States was host to the XXIV IPhO at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. As Executive Director of the IPhO, Arthur Eisenkraft was responsible for organizing this very successful event. Eisenkraft also edited the publication XXIV International Physics Olympiad that listed the participants and included copies of the test questions prepared by a committee headed by Anthony P. French. In addition to AAPT's contribution, major financial support was provided by AIP, several corporations, and agencies of the federal government.

The Inter-American Conference on Physics Education, held in Oaxtepec, Mexico, on July 20-24, 1987, was an activity first suggested by the AAPT Committee on International Education whose chair, Robert N. Little, urged that AAPT should strengthen its ties with other physics teachers in the Western Hemisphere. At a meeting of an international steering committee in Guatemala in September 1985 the invitation of Mexico to be the host country was accepted, and Jorge Barojas Weber of Mexico was named the chair of the organizing committee. The steering committee decided to form a Council on Inter-American Conferences in Physics Education and elected Robert Beck Clark as President and William C. Kelly as Executive Secretary; the Council's secretariat was located at AAPT headquarters in College Park.

The theme of the Oaxtepec Conference was "Creating Physics-Education Networks for the Americas." Some 220 physics teachers from 30 different countries, most of them in the Western Hemisphere, attended and took part in a five-day meeting to discuss the problems facing physics education and to devise cooperative projects to solve them. Fifty-five participants were from the United States—a strong delegation that took an active part in the Conference program. The Conference enjoyed support from the National Science Foundation and from many other national and international organizations.

Following the Conference, a series of cooperative activities began: circulation of "Networking News," meetings in the United States of Topical Network Groups, formation of networks on specific subjects linking teachers in several countries, and correspondence and sharing of ideas and materials among Oaxtepec participants. It was also planned to hold another Inter-American Conference within five years of the Oaxtepec meeting.

There was a second Conference in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1992 and a third in July 1994 at Texas A&M University. AAPT members were active participants in these conferences. In 1990, Teodoro Halpern succeeded William C. Kelly as executive secretary of the Council. In 1994 Robert Beck Clark took on the position of executive secretary.

AAPT has been active in other international conferences on physics teaching. With support from NSF, AAPT members participated in three U.S.-Japan-China Conferences in Hawaii (1989), in Japan (1991), and in China (1993).