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A River of Connections, NSTA-2007

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NSTA National Conference
St. Louis, MO
March 29 - April 1, 2007

A River of Connections

 
KICP Participants
 
Sessions
 
Online Materials

At the 2007 NSTA Conference in St. Louis, members of the University of Chicago KICP outreach community presented workshops on physics and astronomy education and the public presentation of astronomical information.

Materials distributed during the sessions or otherwise pertaining to the sessions at the conference have been compiled here for public use.

KICP Participants

  • Randall H. Landsberg
    Director of Public Outreach, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
    Director of Education and Outreach, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics

    email: randyoddjob.uchicago.edu
  • Reid A. Sherman
    Graduate Student, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
    email: rasoddjob.uchicago.edu
  • Sarah M. Hansen
    Graduate Student, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics; Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics
    email: shansenoddjob.uchicago.edu
  • Robert B. Friedman
    Graduate Student, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics; Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics
    email: rfriedmanuchicago.edu
    website: http://astro.uchicago.edu/~rfriedman/educational/

Sessions

A Doppler Shift Speed Gun

Presenter(s): Reid A. Sherman, Robert Friedman

Come learn about a lab where students measure speed by building a buzzing ball and analyzing the Doppler shifted sound using computer software.

This is a fun and educational lab for students in middle school and above to learn about the Doppler shift, and about waves in general. After reviewing the basic properties of waves, with some Socratic questioning students form their own hypothesis of what will happen to a sound wave when emitted by a moving object. The students then construct their own instrument and test their hypothesis in both a qualitative and quantitative manner, with the final goal being to correctly measure the speed of an object using only the waves emitted from it.

Session Information
March 30, 2007: 14:00 - 15:00
Session Type: Workshop, Phys, Middle Level-High School/Informal Education
Presenter(s): Reid A. Sherman (The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL); Robert Friedman (The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL)
Location: Adam's Mark Hotel, Rose Garden

Online Materials

Links to Relevant Online Resources

Quantum Physics in a Peanut Butter Jar!

Presenter(s): Robert Bryan Friedman

Though the world of Quantum Physics may seem abstract, its foundation is in experimentation. Learn to recreate the experiment that won Einstein the Nobel Prize.

Session Information
March 31, 2007: 09:30 - 10:30
Session Type: Workshop, Phys, Middle Level-High School/Informal Education
Presenter(s): Robert Bryan Friedman (The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL)
Location: Adam's Mark Hotel, Rose Garden

Lab Summary
Modern physics is governed by the often seemingly esoteric and random rules of Quantum Mechanics. While grounded in probabilities, it is certainly not random and moreover, while seemingly esoteric, the roots of Quantum Physics are not beyond the reach of anyone. In fact, the evidence for the quantum nature of the universe is suprisingly grounded in simple to digest experimental evidence. Suprising still, you can recreate the experiment that earned Einstein the nobel prize and proved beyond doubt that light is not a continuous stream of electromagnetic energy delivered in waves, but rather a collection of particles, or photons, originally dubbed "quanta".

With a peanut butter jar, some wire, gold leaf, a zinc plate and a UV light you can demonstrate what is known as the Photoelectric Effect. Using the peanut butter jar and gold leaf you can build a simple electroscope, a device that detects electric charge. With the UV light you can discharge a zinc plate, as measured by the electroscope, and show that light interacts with metal not as a complex wave but rather as a simple particle. This behaviour runs contrary to centuries of physical theory and spawned what is now known as the "Wave-Particle Duality".

Available Materials for Download

  • Photoelectric Effect Lab
    A lab developed using a "Peanut Butter Jar Electroscope", for high school students. In addition the lab includes activities involving a mechanical analogy to the photoelectric effect and a simple photoelectric circuit. The lab doesn't include construction instructions for the electroscope.
  • Photoelectric Effect Lab Slideshow
    A slideshow illustrating the use of the mechanical analogy and the "Peanut Butter Jar Electroscope".
Links to Relevant Online Resources Notes on the above site's instructions:
  • You can get better performance by replacing the aluminum foil with gold leaf.
  • Instead of hanging two pieces on the paperclip, fold one strip over the top.
  • If you can engineer it, attach a metal plate outside the scope electrically connected to the paperclip.
  • Humid air makes it easier for objects to discharge. Try to perform all scope activity in a dry moisture free environment.
  • The straw likely serves to keep the air inside the bottle equilibrated with the outside. If the scope is assembled in dry climate, this is probably not helpful and useless.

An Ideal Lesson

Presenter(s): Reid A. Sherman, Sarah Hansen

Join us for an active group demonstration of the kinetic theory of gasses and the relation between microscopic and macroscopic properties.

This activity is a useful one for giving students of any age an introduction to ideal gases. The connection between microscopic activity and macroscopic observable properties is a tough thing to comprehend, but with this lesson, students get a hands-on analogy to keep in mind and use as a platform to develop their understanding. The activity is based around the simple idea of shaking balls on a large sheet and observing their motion. By drawing the students' attention to particular aspects of the balls' motion, the students will be able to see the relationships between different properties. With some helpful provocation, more advanced students might be able to work out a crude form of the ideal gas law.

Session Information
March 31, 2007: 15:30 - 16:30
Session Type: Workshop, Phys, Middle Level-High School/Informal Education
Presenter(s): Reid A. Sherman (The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL); Sarah Hansen (The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL)
Location: Adam's Mark Hotel, St. Louis

Online Materials

Godzilla Geometry: Measuring the Universe with a Digital Camera aka the Cosmic Distance Ladder

Presenter(s): Randall H. Landsberg

(Apparent) size really does matter. A hands-on inquiry activity involving sci-fi monsters, millions of celestial objects, consumer technology, and measuring the size of the universe.

My Session will address my chosen National Standard by: Modeling the process of research science with an active, extended, collaborative, inquiry activity that engages at multiple levels, challenges students to critically construct knowledge on how we measure the natural world, & incorporates outside resources (e.g., astronomical research data).

Take your students from the schoolyard to the very edge of the universe with a tape measure, consumer technology (digital camera & computer), and the concept of the cosmic distance ladder. Godzilla Geometry gives students a physical feeling for how astronomers measure enormous (o.k., astronomical) scales and distances. This multi-part investigation allows students to: 1) make measurements to empirically determine the relationship between apparent size & distance (e.g., twice as far looks half as big, 1/r); 2) test this model & its limitations, 3) make predictions & monster movies; and 4) extend the concept to astronomical objects & construct a cosmological distance ladder.

Godzilla Geometry encourages students to ask questions, construct knowledge, and to apply their understanding of human-scale physical measurements to the abstraction of cosmological scales (billions of light-years). This investigation also provides many opportunities for problem solving, discussion/debate, and for embedding both technology and current research data into the classroom. Find photos of students engaged in this activity at the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory and activity handout at: Yerkes.

Session Information
April 01, 2007: 08:30 - 09:00
Session Type: Presentation, Earth, Middle Level-High School/Informal Education
Strand: Technology: Research and Practical Applications (ISTE)
Presenter(s): Randall H. Landsberg (University of Chicago, Chicago, IL)
Location: America's Center, Room 163

Online Materials

Links to Relevant Online Resources

Astronomical Visualizations from the Research Frontier

Presenter(s): Randall H. Landsberg

Sometimes science is beautiful. Experience forefront research via interactive visualizations of current data including black holes and the large-scale structure of the universe (See COSMUS ).

Interactively fly through galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and quasars out to the edge of the observable universe. Explore the evolution of dark matter, enormous ultra high energy cosmic ray showers, and the black hole at the center of the Galaxy. (See COSMUS ) Astronomers do not get to touch the objects of their studies, instead they receive indirect signals, mostly in the form of photons, which in turn produces data. So this observed data is the real 'stuff' of research and visualizations of this data can give students a taste of authentic research. The Cosmus group of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago has created visualizations of groundbreaking astronomical research including data from: the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, The Pierre Auger Observatory, and numerical simulations of Dark Matter evolution. DVDs will be provided with both award winning short movies and interactive visualizations that will allow you students to explore this advanced research on their own terms. Download this visualizations and tools at COSMUS.

My Session will address my chosen National Standard by:
Demonstrating how one can incorporate current research, new technology, and external resources (data, visualizations, software) into student driven investigations.

Session Information
April 01, 2007: 11:00 - 12:00
Session Type: Presentation, Earth, Middle Level-High School/Informal Education
Presenter(s): Randall H. Landsberg (University of Chicago, Chicago, IL)
Location: America's Center, Room 122

Online Materials

Links to Relevant Online Resources

Online Materials


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Last update: April 28, 2008