AAPT_WM14program_final - page 64

(including the prevalence of specific difficulties) depends upon the
disciplinary context. In this talk, I will focus on our efforts to probe
student understanding of basic operational-amplifier circuits using
free-response questions. Preliminary results from questions adminis-
tered in both physics and engineering courses will be presented.
*This work has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation
under Grant Nos. DUE-1323426, DUE-1022449, and DUE-0962805.
11:40-11:50 a.m. Probing College Student Ideas
about Buoyancy and Pressure
Contributed – DJ Wagner Grove City College, Grove City, PA 16127;
Ashley Lindow, Elizabeth Carbone, Anna Olson, Grove City College
Numerous studies have identified student conceptions about buoyan-
cy, but most of those studies involved children younger than 15 years
old. As part of developing a standardized static fluids assessment, our
research group is seeking to identify which of those conceptions per-
sist into late high school and college. This fall, we used a Likert-style
approach to our assessment, asking students to agree or disagree with
individual statements (rather than choose from multiple options for
a single physical situation). We also videotaped volunteers taking this
assessment. This talk will report on some of our preliminary findings.
Session CH: Upper Division and
Graduate Topics
Location: Salon 10
Sponsor: AAPT
Date: Monday, January 6
Time: 11–11:40 a.m.
Presider: TBD
11-11:10 a.m. Applying the Correspondence
Principle to the Three-Dimensional Rigid Rotor
Contributed – David Keeports, Mills College, Oakland, CA 94613;
According to the quantum mechanical correspondence principle,
a quantum system can pass well as a classical system if the system’s
quantum numbers are very large. Application of the correspondence
principle to some basic problems in quantum mechanics including
the particle in a one-dimensional infinite well, the linear harmonic
oscillator, and the two-dimensional rigid rotor is quite straightfor-
ward. However, the three-dimensional rigid rotor provides a greater
challenge due to the complexity of the spherical harmonic functions
that describe the rotor’s angular orientation. I will explain why the
seemingly classical rotation of a large rigid rotor in the xy-plane
implies that quantum numbers J and MJ are equal and very large.
Furthermore, I will demonstrate that the values of these quantum
numbers imply a very simple spherical harmonic function that is
consistent with the rotor’s apparently classical behavior.
11:10-11:20 a.m. SpaceTime: A Software Tool for
Teaching Special Relativity
Contributed – Randy W. Wolfmeyer, John Wood Community College, IL
Melissa A. Vigil, Marquette University
Spacetime diagrams provide a powerful tool to aid in the conceptual
understanding of special relativity. The SpaceTime applet is designed
to aid students in understanding how to create spacetime diagrams,
set up diagrams for specific problems, and make accurate measure-
ments from their diagrams. A lab activity is also developed for use
with the applet in adding spacetime diagrams to an introductory
physics program.
11:20-11:30 a.m. Teaching Undergraduates Space
and Plasma Physics: Make It Fly!
Contributed – Dimitris Vassiliadis, West Virginia University - Physics and
Astronomy, Morgantown, WV 26506-6315; dimitris.vassiliadis@mail.
We summarize an effort to develop a teaching unit on experimental
space and plasma physics at the undergraduate level at the WVU
Department of Physics in the last four years. We have focused on
these topics due to their inherent popularity with students and due to
the strengths of the research arm of the department. A small number
of faculty and students participated in an introductory workshop in
summer 2009 at NASA/Wallops Flight Facility, and a special topics
course was developed in the fall. Since then a team of physics and
engineering students has participated in the annual launch of a two-
stage rocket from Wallops into the ionosphere and they have created
a number of fluid, plasma, magnetism, and mechanics experiments.
I discuss the course development, strengths and weaknesses of the
approach, the student response to the project, the impact on their
studies and post-graduation paths, and the experiments flown.
11:30-11:40 a.m. The IMAAS Plots: Helping
Students to Understand Logarithmic Quantities
Contributed – Saami J. Shaibani, Instruction Methods, Academics &
Advanced Scholarship (IMAAS), PO Box 12255, Lynchburg, VA 24506;
The everyday world is filled with phenomena whose values are
represented by logarithms. Familiar examples include the Richter
scale and the decibel unit, with entropy and other measures occurring
at a more advanced level. Many students struggle when they first
encounter logarithms in the mathematics classroom, even before they
encounter it in the scientific realm. As a teacher certified in physics,
mathematics and chemistry, with postgraduate status in the license,
this author has a particularly suitable multidisciplinary background
to combine aspects from all of these fields. The result of such a skill
set is the creation of a novel device that promotes understanding of
logarithmic quantities. A key feature of the device is its graphical
nature, and the principles involved in various example plots here are
readily applicable to other subjects. Students report an enhanced level
of learning gained from employing the plots, and teachers have also
made favorable comments.
Session TD03: Graduate Student
Topical Discussion
Location: TBD
Sponsor: Committee on Research in Physics Education
Co-Sponsor: Committee on Graduate Education in Physics
Date: Monday, January 6
Time: TBD (email organizer for details at
Presider: Ben Van Dusen
Come meet with fellow doctoral students to discuss topical issues.
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