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Meeting Highlights

123rd National Meeting — Rochester, NY
Jul. 21-25, 2001

The 123rd AAPT National Meeting moved north in 2001 to be held in Rochester, N.Y., the birthplace of well-known companies, such as Eastman Kodak and Xerox, and higher education institutions, such as Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the University of Rochester, and Monroe Community College. In keeping with the strong optics focus of the Rochester industrial and educational community, the AAPT Summer Meeting featured an emphasis on optics in the plenary and invited sessions. The meeting format departed from the usual campus setting and was held in the Riverside Convention Center and nearby hotels. Meeting attendance far exceeded expectations, and this was the best attended Summer Meeting in more than seven years. AAPT staff received many favorable comments about this format from the more than 1100 participants in attendance.

In the week preceding the AAPT meeting, the fifth Summer Institute of the PTRA Urban Initiative was held on RIT’s campus, and 110 Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRAs) attended an intensive week of workshops presented by their fellow PTRAs and other professional educators. The PTRA program continues to grow by bringing in new teachers from predominantly urban areas to join with veteran PTRAs 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 at the PTRA website.

About 170 graduate students and faculty attended the PER 2001 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. Information about purchasing copies of the full conference proceedings is available online. A similar meeting is being planned in conjunction with the 125th AAPT National Meeting at Boise State University.

Workshop and Continuing Education Opportunities
There were 580 registrants for the 39 workshops and three tutorial sessions that were offered during the two days prior to the paper presentations. Workshops that required laboratory facilities and/or access to computer related technology were held in the RIT Physics Department building. Anne Young, Vern Lindberg, Ron Jodoin, and William VanDerveer of RIT were very helpful in making arrangements for the AAPT workshops, as well as the PTRA Summer Institute held earlier. Many of the 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 Interactive Three-Dimensional Optics Simulations on the Web (WebTOP); Extending Video-Based Motion Analysis Beyond the Basics; RealTime Physics and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations: Activity-Based Learning in Lab and Lecture; Physlets: Creating Interactive Curricula Using Java Applets; and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations II: Active Learning of Electricity and Magnetism, Electric Circuits, and Optics in Lecture.

Other workshops presented pedagogical techniques for engaging students and improving the delivery of specific subject matter. Popular workshops of this latter type included A New Applied Course in Quantum Physics, Creating Stars in the Classroom: Plasmas and Fusion for Introductory Physics; Effective Facilitation in Active-Learning Physics Classrooms; Collaborative Group Tutorials for Astronomy Lectures; Exploring Black Holes; General Relativity for Undergraduates; Fun Experiments and Demos in Light, Color, and Spectroscopy; and How Do We Know What Students Are Thinking?

Members of the Physics Instructional Research Association (PIRA) again presented a two-day lecture demonstration workshop that was very popular. A workshop entitled Successful Grant-Funded Projects also attracted many participants. Eleven commercial workshops added additional educational opportunities for meeting attendees.

The Paper Sessions
The meeting offered 340 invited and contributed papers organized into 76 paper sessions and three poster sessions with a total of 72 papers. A popular choice for many attendees was any session involving the use of the web or computer applications in the classroom and laboratory such as Just-in-Time Teaching in Physics, Teaching Innovations Using Java Applets, New Digital Video and Computer Uses in Student Labs and Lectures, The Role of the Web in High School Physics Teaching, and Computers in Undergraduate Physics Education.

A number of very well-attended sessions were devoted to pedagogical issues such as sessions entitled PER and PER-Based Instruction for K–12 Teachers and Students; Developing, Evaluating, and Implementing Inquiry-Based Labs; PER: Research on Student Difficulties in Electricity and Magnetism, and Mechanics; PER: Assessment Tools; and Add Visualization and Modeling to Your Teaching. A special session in memory of Arnold Arons brought former Arons’ students and colleagues together to share their stories and anecdotes about his life and his contributions to physics education.

Several sessions such as Train Them in the Way they Should Go: Physics Education for Elementary Teachers and Preparation of Pre-College Teachers in the 21st Century provided information on innovative programs for teacher preparation and the formation of a coalition of physics departments interested in improving K–12 teacher preparation. The AAPT Committee on Professional Concerns sponsored three sessions that attracted a great deal of interest: Does a Physics Bachelor’s Degree Prepare Students for the Workplace?; Retirement Options, Opportunities, and Adventures; and Should We Accredit Physics Bachelor’s Programs? 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 meeting are available online.

Award and Plenary Sessions
At Monday’s Ceremonial Session, Clarence Bakken, recipient of the Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching Award, discussed the problem of untrained and undertrained high school physics teachers in his talk entitled Our Job Is Never Done. Bakken described the important role that AAPT programs such as the PTRA program play in helping new and underprepared physics teachers and gave suggestions for additional programs that AAPT might undertake, such as an organized mentor program and scholarships for high school teachers to attend AAPT summer meetings. A PowerPoint presentation of Bakken’s talk is available on his website. In addition to being a PTRA, Bakken has served as a consultant and workshop leader for PASCO scientific and Vernier Software & Technology. He currently teaches at Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, Calif.

Robert Ehrlich, recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching Award, discussed the difficulty of assessing teaching effectiveness in his talk entitled How Do We Know We’re Doing A Good Job? Ehrlich shared his views on traditional measures of excellence, questioned some of the results of physics education research, and suggested alternative measures that might be used to evaluate teaching effectiveness. Ehrlich has authored or edited many books including Physics and Computers, Turning the World Inside Out and 174 Other Simple Demonstrations, Why Toast Lands Jelly-Side Down, and If You Could Unscramble an Egg. He is a professor of physics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

At the Tuesday Ceremonial Session, Virginia Trimble, University of California at Irvine, delivered the Klopsteg Memorial Lecture, Cosmology: Man’s Place in the Universe. In her entertaining presentation, Trimble discussed what is known about the structure and evolution of the universe and how each stage of the evolutionary process is dependent on the physical processes occurring in the previous stages. 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 nonspecialists.

Sallie A. Watkins, University of Southern Colorado, gave the Robert A. Millikan Award Lecture: Can “Descriptive” End with “A”? Watkins discussed results of the recent TIMMS-R Study of eighth graders that indicates there is a strong connection between student learning and classroom methodologies. According to Watkins, descriptive learners memorize problems and solutions but do not have an understanding of the concepts underlying the material. Watkins believes that all instructional environments should include inquiry-based methodologies that develop observational skills and promote a deeper understanding of the material. 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 Cynthia Pratt Nicolson with the 2001 AIP Children’s Science Writing Award. Nicolson received the award for her book Exploring Science.

Three plenary sessions concentrated on the optics theme that serves as the focus for the research community in Rochester. J.H. Eberly, University of Rochester Department of Physics, discussed the evolution of quantum optics in his talk Even Stranger Than We Supposed: From Max Planck to Teleportation. Beginning with Planck’s quantum hypothesis more than 100 years ago, Eberly traced the development of quantum optics and concluded with an explanation of the recent teleportation experiments by giving a four-step guide to the teleportation process. Emil Wolf, University of Rochester Department of Physics, was Max Born’s last assistant and he reminisced about Max Born and other well-known scientists in his talk Recollections of Max Born. Wolf and Born collaborated on an optics textbook that became one of the standards of the discipline. Wolf concluded his presentation by playing a song sung by Born’s granddaughter, Olivia Newton-John. David Williams, University of Rochester Center for Visual Science, discussed the factors that limit how well we can see in his talk The Limits of Human Vision. Aberrations in the cornea and lens blur vision beyond the fundamental limits set by the retina and brain. Using the methods of adaptive optics, new techniques are being developed that will result in better correction for these aberrations than previously possible and also allow for better imaging of the retina for the discovery and treatment of retinal diseases.

Exhibits and Demos
The High School Physics Photo Contest and the Physics Video Contest attracted a great deal of attention and many favorable comments. Vernier Software & Technology provided prizes for both contests. These displays were conveniently located in the exhibit hall where vendors displayed their products in more than 70 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 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 online. PASCO scientific provided prizes for the Apparatus Competition. PIRA hosted a resource area in the exhibit hall next to the Apparatus Competition.

In Conclusion
Meeting attendees had the opportunity to meet Jan Tobochnik, the new Editor of the American Journal of Physics, at a reception on Monday afternoon and were able to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Vernier Software & Technology with the Verniers at a reception on Tuesday evening. More than 400 meeting participants boarded buses on Wednesday evening to attend the Summer Gala picnic at the George Eastman House. Tickets for the picnic included admission to tour the George Eastman House and grounds. Following the picnic, everyone returned to the Riverside Convention Center for the demo show put on this year by Purdue University’s “Physics on the Road” and the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s “Chemistry and Physics on Wheels.” Many people from the Rochester community joined AAPT meeting attendees for this annual event that delighted the children, as well as the adult physicists, in the crowd. The evening’s festivities concluded with a Laser Light Show at Rochester’s High Falls that included a salute to AAPT’s Summer Meeting.

Although this was a departure from the usual campus-based summer meetings, most people in attendance felt that this was an excellent meeting. The Rochester community was very welcoming to participants, and there was good support for the meeting from RIT and the University of Rochester. The meeting was well organized by AAPT and Riverside Convention Center staff. The next Summer Meeting returns to Boise State University on Aug. 3–7, 2002, and host Dick Reimann promises another great meeting similar to the one held in Boise in 1993. The 124th National Meeting will be held Jan. 19–23, 2002, in Philadelphia. The full program of workshops, invited and contributed papers, and plenary sessions will appear in the Winter issue of the Announcer and online as it is available. I look forward to seeing many of you in January.

Warren W. Hein, Associate Executive Officer