TPT 50th Anniversity book - page 22

I started to study physics at the Faculty
for Mathematics and Physics, University of
Ljubljana, Slovenia (at that time Yugoslavia)
in 1982. Soon it became clear to me (and I
was not the only one) that though the lectures
were taught at the highest level and laboratories
had contemporary equipment, there was one
important thing missing in our study program:
the opportunities to design and performour own
experiments, to test ideas that emerged during
the lectures, during discussions with colleagues,
or simply crazy ideas that came to mind. Later
when I became an assistant professor in the
same department, I proposed to the senior
faculty to create a course that would fill this gap.
My proposal was approved and a new course
for first-year students was born; it was called
the Project Lab. The main idea of the Project
Lab was to give students a series of sufficiently
simple and engaging experimental tasks but
no initial hints on how to solve them. Students,
working in groups, had three weeks to complete
each task. Here are three examples: 1) Design
an experiment to measure rotational inertia
of a car tire around each of two perpendicular
geometrical axes; try several methods and
compare the results. 2) Design an experiment to
measure electric charge that forms on a container
when sugar (or other granular material) is
poured from it; explore different combinations
of materials. 3) Measure the vibrating frequency
of an electric toothbrush; design and test several
(at least three) methods and compare the results
of your measurements. In order to create the
conditions similar to those met in science
research, we set the goal that every group of
students work on an original project that had
not been done before. We definitely would not
be able to meet this goal without
The Physics
. My love for experiments as a tool for
learning physics soon went beyond the walls of
the physics department. In 1996 I joined Miha
Kos as a co-founder of the first Slovenian hands-
on science center. The ideas for new experiments
and their innovative use started to flow in both
directions: from the Project Lab to the science
center and back. In 2000 I published my first
paper in
and from then on it became a habit
(overall I have six papers). I will never forget the
excitement when the photo of mosquito larvae
highly magnified with my water-drop projector
appeared on the front cover of
in 2001. I
printed out the cover image, framed it, and put
it on the wall in my office. Soon after that the
next photo appeared on the front cover – this
time the color light mixer made from LEDs and
a ping-pong ball (2004). In 2000 I took over the
physics education program in the Department
of Physics and the University of Ljubljana and
the program for continuing education for high
school in-service physics teachers. At that time
I realized the ability to attract future physics
teachers is closely related to how challenging
these programs are, whether the people that run
the programs are active in research in physics
education, and whether publications in journals
that focus on physics education are recognized
as important at the home university. One of the
important achievements in this respect was that
in Slovenia (as well as in several other European
became one of the journals
that are regarded as important for the physics
education field.
When I look back I see that the initial
attraction that connected me to
experiments - is still here but is now amplified
with new challenges and questions such as what
we need to know to integrate experiments even
more efficiently into active learning. So, happy
, and see you soon.
Gorazd Planinšič is a member of the Faculty for Mathematics and Physics
at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He leads the undergraduate and
post-graduate physics education program and the continuing education
program for in-service secondary school physics teachers. His main interest
is in development and didactical use of experiments. He is currently a chair
of the Physics Education Division at the European Physical Society and
co-founder and collaborator of the Slovenian hands-on science center The
House of Experiments.
Gorazd Planinšic
I...,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21 23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30
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