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Teaching in LA

25 Aug

New Physics Teacher Workshop Fall ’12 Notes

Posted in Uncategorized on 25.08.12 by Frank

Hosted by USC in association with SCAAPT (Souther California American Association of Physics Teachers)

Presented by James Lincoln, Bill Layton, Chija Bauer, and Frank Lee


Frank’s Kinematics Overview Notes

  • Stumbling block: “speed = velocity = acceleration = position”
    • Try having students use complete sentences and descriptions.
      • Ex: “It’s going 50” “The velocity of the car is 50 meters per second.”
      • Ex: “It’s going up” “The velocity of the person is increasing” 
  • Stumbling block: “Which equation do I use?”
    • Try having students learn motion and forces in discrete “models”. Most introductory physics classes can break down their motion and forces unit into “models” such as “constant velocity”, “constant acceleration”, “balanced forces”, “unbalanced forces”.
    • You can also try having students solve “goal-less problems” ( – problems that don’t ask the students to solve for anything.
      •  Ex: “A student stands on her skateboard at the top of a hill, then begins to roll down.” Students are then supposed to write everything they can about the situation (draw a force diagram, “her speed increases, assume no friction”, etc.)


Frank’s Speeding Camera Resources (for constant velocity)

Article –…

Photos –…


Chija’s Constant Velocity Buggies

Have students run the buggies and mark the position of the buggy (say, with Post-Its) at equal time intervals (using a metronome). Observe pattern created. Calculate velocity.

Where you can buy the buggies:

Online metronome for helping students keep rhythm:

Each buggy requires two C batteries. The buggies travel rather fast. You can make “slow” buggies by swapping out one of the batteries with a chunk of aluminum foil, which halves the voltage. Physics. It works.

James’ Jackalope Story

Have students graph this on a position vs. time graph and/or velocity vs. time graph. All situations are constant velocity.


  1. Driving at a constant velocity
  2. See jackalope, continue traveling the same velocity
  3. Jackalope starts running at a greater constant velocity. You follow.
  4. Jackalope stops. Staredown.
  5. Jackalope runs back to hole. You pursue in reverse, a slower, constant velocity compared to before.
  6. Jackalope runs into the hole where you originally spotted it. You stop there.


James’ Newton’s 3rd Law Activity

Have students pair up. Give each student identical spring scales. Connect the measuring ends of the spring scales to each other and have each student grab a loose end of a scale. Ask the students to pull on each other with different amounts of force (ex: “You pull with 30 newtons. You pull with 20 newtons.”)

James’ Universal Gravitation Stuff

Mechanical Universe video…
On YouTube:
On non-YouTube (if your school blocks YouTube):
You can download the video from YouTube (to view later) using (just paste the video’s address into the textbox).

Frank’s Pendulum Activity (Stolen from another Frank)

Extension: “The rhythm is too fast and I can’t shorten the string that much! I’ll just double the period. Now… do I have to redo my calculations? Can I just double the length of the string?”

Bill’s Guide to the California Science Content Standards

Newton’s Cradles provided by!

Dancing Ooblek by Anton from

562-492-9560 x701

James’ Physics Video Website

Download physics videos by using (if you use Firefox), or paste the video’s address into

Frank’s Guide for New Physics Teachers

It’s got like, resources and stuff. Yeah.…

PTSOS (Physics Teachers SOS)

This workshop (NPTW) is similar to a new physics teacher workshop in Northern California, PTSOS ( PTSOS puts on three workshops a year (in 2 locations each time, so really 6 workshops) on various physics topics. Each workshop is hosted by very experienced physics teachers who put on great activities and demos. There may also be some give-aways! Check their website for their schedule and registration info. The next set of workshops will be on Saturday September 15 in Los Gatos and Saturday October 13 in Sacramento.

A Book Frank Enjoyed :oT

This book is written by a college physics professor who takes a sabbatical to teach physics in high school. His book is filled with stories, epiphanies, and helpful advice about the general direction of science education (as relating to pedagogy, standardized testing, etc.).

An Inquiry Into Science Education, Where the Rubber Meets the Road (by Richard N. Steinberg):

First chapter on PDF:

For those interested in getting a copy of the book, the publisher is giving a special deal for NPTW participants! (Ask Frank)

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