2002 AAPT Winter Meeting Highlights
124th National Meeting — Philadelphia, PA
Jan. 19-23, 2002
The selection of Philadelphia as the location for the 2002 AAPT Winter Meeting and 124th National Meeting of the Association turned out to be an excellent choice. Many attendees were within easy commuting distance by car or train, and few participants reported any problems when flying. Light snow flurries greeted those travelers arriving on Saturday, but did not cause any major problems. More than 1200 participants registered for the meeting, far exceeding the attendance that normally registers for an AAPT Winter Meeting. Approximately 80 middle school through college-level teachers took advantage of the free registration for Educator's Day to attend the meeting on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. In addition to attending the physics programs, attendees had sufficient time to visit with exhibitors and to meet with friends and colleagues in the pleasant atmosphere provided by the Philadelphia Marriott.
AAPT Provides Structure for Advances in Physics Education
Much of the role of creating a strong meeting program and examining issues of importance to the physics community rests with the AAPT Area Committee chairs and the 19 Area Committees. Both the outgoing and incoming chairs from many of the committees met on the Saturday prior to the AAPT meeting. President-Elect Chris Chiaverina and Vice President Charlie Holbrow reviewed and discussed the responsibilities of the Area Committee Chairs. Each of the Area Committees met during the week to plan programs, discuss policy issues and long-range planning, and formulate suggestions that could be taken back to the Council and Executive Board. In addition to the Area Committee meetings, there were more than 20 other meetings of the various standing and program-related AAPT committees. The AAPT Section Representatives met on Sunday evening to elect new officers and discuss issues of concern to the sections and general membership. The AAPT Council, consisting of the Section Representatives and Executive Board, met on Monday evening to hear reports from the officers of the Association and to approve future meeting sites. The Council approved holding the 2004 Summer Meeting at California State University, Sacramento; the 2005 Summer Meeting at Yale University; the 2006 Winter Meeting in New Orleans; and the 2007 Winter Meeting to be held jointly with the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.
Workshops and Continuing Education Opportunities
Almost 600 people registered for the 33 AAPT workshops and two tutorials that were offered during the two days prior to the paper presentations. Physics concepts taught using computer-related technologies such as modeling, simulation, web-based homework systems, and video capture were featured in several of the workshops. These workshops were held off-site at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. Many workshops presented pedagogical techniques for engaging students and providing innovative opportunities to learn specific subject matter, and covered topics such as: Interactive Lecture Demonstrations; Magic, Science, and Pseudoscience; The Hidden Lives of Galaxies; Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity for Undergraduates; and Teaching Physics with Magic. Many of the lessons learned through physics education research (PER) were evident in workshops such as Teaching Physics by Replicating the Processes of Science, Preparing Pre-College Teachers to Teach Physics by Inquiry, and Activity-Based Learning in the High School Classroom — The High School ABP-CD. An additional 13 commercial workshops rounded out the many educational opportunities for meeting participants.
The Paper Sessions
The meeting offered 108 invited papers, 200 contributed papers, 60 poster papers, and four crackerbarrels that were organized into 76 sessions over the three-day meeting. The poster papers were displayed in the exhibit hall on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The poster paper authors were available to discuss the papers each morning during the break in paper sessions.
A popular choice for many attendees was any session involving the use of the web or computer applications in the classroom and laboratory. Typical examples were sessions with titles like Assessment of the Web I and II, Can the Web Replace the Textbook, Teaching Physics Online, and Web-Based Assessment and Tutoring Systems. Well-attended sessions of a topical interest included sessions with titles like Innovations in Teaching Astronomy, Undergraduate Research: Expectations, Costs, and Rewards, and Revitalizing the Physics Course for Nonmajors. A very popular session was the session on Physics First, along with the related session, Physics First Panel: Pros and Cons, both organized by Barry Feierman.
A number of sessions were devoted to pedagogical issues, including PER: Implementation and Dissemination of Curriculum; Enhancing Physics Learning in Lecture Beyond Newton's Laws with Interactive Lecture Demonstrations; PER in Modern Physics and Quantum Mechanics; and PER: Difficulties with Advanced Topics. Undergraduate students engaged in physics research were featured in two sessions of contributed papers organized by the Society of Physics StudentsPhysics Teaching Around the World; Strategies for Teaching a Diverse Population: Success Stories; Women in Physics, Past and Present; Summer Activities for the Public; and Physics and Civic Engagement. A recurring theme that appeared in a number of sessions at the meeting was teacher preparation and enhancement. Typical examples were sessions with titles like Teacher Preparation: Kindergarten to Graduate School, Science Preparation for K-6 Teachers, Part I and II, and Teacher Preparation.
Abstracts for the 2002 AAPT Winter Meeting (as well as the 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 AAPT Winter and Summer Meetings) are available online at http://www.aapt.org/AbstractSearch.
Awards and Plenary Sessions
The AAPT awards program provides a formal opportunity to recognize distinguished physicists and give them a chance to describe and promote their work. Jordan A. Goodman, University of Maryland, received the Richtmyer Award. Goodman's Richtmyer Memorial Lecture, Neutrinos, Dark Matter, and the Cosmological Constant, discussed the problem of reconciling the known mass of the universe with the predictions and data that suggest the universe is flat. The known mass contributions of stars and neutrinos makes up less than 1% of the energy density required for a flat universe.
David Hestenes, Arizona State University, was awarded the Oersted Medal, AAPT's most distinguished award. In his lecture, entitled Reforming the Mathematical Language of Physics, Hestenes claimed that current mathematical tools used in physics result in a fragmentation of knowledge and contribute to student difficulties in learning physics. Hestenes introduced simple new rules for multiplying vectors that apply to problems in any spatial dimension and provide the grammar for a unified mathematical language for physics. He demonstrated their effectiveness in 2-D trig and rotations. The published version of the lecture will be much more extensive. (SPS). In addition, there were a number of career-oriented and science-policy-related sessions such as
Five members of the Association were selected for Distinguished Service Citations. The recipients were selected for their many contributions over an extended period of time to the American Association of Physics Teachers and to the teaching profession. Recipients of the 2002 Distinguished Service Citations were as follows: Joseph Drenchko, retired from North Syracuse Central Schools, Syracuse, N.Y.; John Fitzgibbons, retired from Cazenovia High School, Cazenovia, N.Y.; C. Harry Knowles, chairman of the board and founder of Metrologic Instruments Inc., Blackwood, N.J.; David Ohlde, Pratt Community College, Pratt, Kan.; and William Ploughe, retired from The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
In his presidential address, John Hubisz reviewed the progress of various AAPT programs and new program initiatives begun during the past year. Hubisz emphasized the critical role that AAPT members and the AAPT staff at the American Center for Physics play in the overall success of the organization. Karen Williams, SPS Council President, presented Walerian Majewski, of Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, with the Outstanding SPS Chapter Advisor Award. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) presents this award annually at the AAPT Winter Meeting to a faculty member who has excelled in the role of SPS advisor.
Two high school teachers received High School Grants for Innovative Teaching, awarded by the Committee on Physics in High Schools. David Applegate from George Mason High School in Falls Church, Va., received $500 for the project Laser Holography: System Design and Implementation. Thomas O'Neill from Central Shenandoah Valley Regional Governor's School, Fishersville, Va., received $500 for the project Talking with Light: Simple Fiber Optics.
Three excellent plenary sessions contributed to the physics and public policy content of the meeting. Representative Rush Holt (D-N.J.), one of two physicists in Congress, discussed the responsibility of scientists to communicate the relevance of science to both students and the community at-large in his talk entitled Educating the American Scientist and Engineer. Holt served on the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching (Glenn Commission) and is introducing legislation to strengthen and uplift math and science programs in K-12 education. Following prepared remarks, Holt answered questions from the floor for more than 30 minutes.
Fay Ajzenberg-Selove, University of Pennsylvania, gave an informative and entertaining presentation on the challenges and rewards of being a female physicist in her talk, 55 Years of Fun: Teaching, Nuclei, and Friends. Despite failing five graduate courses at Columbia and never passing a course in quantum mechanics, Ajzenberg-Selove has gained international recognition as an outstanding educator and nuclear physicist for her work on the energy levels of light nuclei.
Frank Wilczek, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, showed how the concept of asymptotic freedom enables us to understand the bulk of the mass of ordinary matter, starting from massless building blocks. Wilczek then discussed how this gives a new perspective on why gravity is much weaker than the other basic forces of nature.
If you wanted to see excitement, curiosity, and enthusiasm, you needed only to visit the SEES session. AAPT again sponsored the SEES (Students to Experience Engineering and Science) program for approximately 20 fifth-grade students from the Friends School in Philadelphia. Bo Hammer and the Franklin Institute hosted the students and their teachers for a program of demonstrations and hands-on science projects organized by Program Coordinator, Betty Preece. AAPT members Trish Allen, Karen Bouffard, Beverly Taylor, and Gary White, and Society of Physics Students members Mark Lentz and David Byrd engaged the students in hands-on activities and make-and-takes. This is the 10th year that AAPT has offered this program at its Winter Meeting. Plans are being made for SEES in Austin with as many as 100 Hispanic students. Organizations interested in providing items for students and teachers or assisting with the program costs are invited to contact Betty Preece at email@example.com.
In addition to the program activities, 35 exhibitors displayed apparatus, books, software, and other materials that can be used in the teaching of physics and astronomy. It was a good place to meet friends between paper sessions or view the poster papers, which were changed each day. Refreshments were provided during breaks in the sessions to encourage more attendees to visit the exhibits and posters.
The AAPT Job Center provided an additional attraction to the exhibit hall. There were 80 positions advertised in the Job Center, and 17 schools interviewed candidates at the meeting. More than 40 candidates submitted resumes for review by employers (18 were submitted by people not in attendance at the meeting). High schools, two-year colleges, and four-year institutions were all well represented at the Job Center. Some of the position announcements continue to be available through the Science Job Market.
The 124th AAPT National Meeting was a very successful event by all measures. Events such as the First-Timers Gathering, Educator's Day, Undergraduate Student Reception, and Multicultural Luncheon all contributed to the overall success of the meeting. Two demonstration shows: Twenty-Five Demonstrations That Would Make Ben Franklin Want to Teach Again, organized by Bill Berner, University of Pennsylvania, and The Sounds of Science, organized by James Sabatier, the Acoustical Society of America, drew large crowds on Saturday and Sunday evening respectively.
The 125th AAPT National Meeting will be held Aug. 3-7 at Boise State University, Boise, Idaho. The call for papers, list of workshops, housing information, and registration forms are available on the 125th National Meeting Info Page. Please consult the AAPT homepage for up-to-date information about all of AAPT's activities.
Warren W. Hein, Associate Executive Officer