The William F. and Edith R. Meggers Project Award is a biennial award of up to $25,000 that funds projects aimed at boosting interest in physics and improving the quality of high school physics education. Three proposals were funded this year.
Promoting physics research in high school classrooms
Elia Eschenazi, chair of the department of mathematics, physics and statistics at the University of the Sciences, in Philadelphia, and high school physics teachers Gerald Jennings and William McWatters are veterans of the Meggers Project Award. They plan to use the funds from their proposal, “A Summer Camp for High School Students and Physics Teachers to Promote New Physics Research Activities in High School,” to expand on work done with their previous grant to send high school physics students to the International Young Physicists’ Tournament.
They plan to hold a seven-day camp to expose high school physics students and teachers, as well as college faculty and physics majors, to research activities requiring simple equipment in the style of the IYPT.
“Our goal with this program was to give any student the chance to have a similar experience as our national IYPT team without the expense and time commitment of international travel,” said Eschenazi.
The instructors said many of their students who participated in IYPT have gone on to be involved with research early in their college careers. Their hope is to expand the circle of teachers and students familiar with high school-level physics research, who can then promote similar projects and their own institutions.
Applications to the program will open in early 2020 at www.USIYPT.org.
Conducting physics experiments with smartphones
To make hands-on research experience more accessible, William Slaton, professor and director of engineering physics, and Umadevi Garimella, director of the STEM Institute, both from the University of Central Arkansas, plan to use funds from their Meggers Project Award for their proposal, “SMART Bears: Smartphones and Media for ARkansas science Teachers at UCA Bears,” to work with high school physics teachers at workshops, teaching them how to use smartphone sensors and data acquisition applications for classroom experiments.
“The education literature, as well as childhood development literature, suggests that hands-on experimentation and investigation is fundamental to learning,” said Slaton. “Physics is a field with a rich history of experimentation and incorporating new technologies. Our educational experiences should be similar.”
Slaton and Garimella hope teachers who attend their workshops will modify an exercise they already use in their classroom to develop their own activity plan using these technologies. This way, they can ensure that the activity aligns with the curricula they are required to follow. Because smartphones have become a part of everyday life, students can then repeat experiments or explore other concepts on their own.
Creating a community of physics scholars
Peter Sheldon, professor and chair of the department of physics at Randolph College, and Pam Wise, executive assistant to the vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Randolph College, hope to create a localized community of physics students by funding a variety of projects and activities with their Meggers Project Award for their proposal, “Physics Phest!,” a physics-themed quiz bowl competition between high school physics students held at Randolph College’s annual science festival.
Randolph College is in Lynchburg, Virginia, a rural city where most high schools have only a single physics teacher and a handful of students interested in physics.
“Our idea is to create a community where these students and teachers at different schools can see there are others like them, with their interest. They can get to know others in a larger region, and we will have activities for this group to be part of,” said Sheldon. “We want to help make sure students and teachers feel like they belong to a community of physics scholars.”
To build this community, Sheldon will visit physics classrooms throughout central Virginia to get to know the students over the course of the year. Additionally, all the teachers and students are invited to join a weekly physics dinner hosted by Randolph College’s Society of Physics Students organization.
For More Information:
Larry Frum, AIP Media
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