Saturday, June 14, 2014


Jolly? Sometimes. Good? Depends on who you ask.

Fellow. Most indubitably.

At least I will be, as of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Summer Meeting 2015.

More details will no doubt emerge at the meeting. But it appears that AAPT is assembling a cadre of honored individuals and bestowing the title of "Fellow" upon them. The AAPT honored me in 2008 with their Distinguished Service Citation. And as I continue to be a member in good standing, I have been included in the first cohort of this cadre.

There will be some manner of shindig exclusive to AAPT Fellows at the Summer Meeting, and we are invited to add the honorific of "F.AAPT" or Fellow, AAPT" after our names on correspondence.

In any case, it's a delightful honor and I am humbled to be in such austere company.

Dean Baird

Monday, June 09, 2014

Tower of paper

Our end-of-year schedule included an amusing burp this year. It came on the last Thursday of the year. Students in periods 1-4 had already had their final exams on Tuesday and Wednesday, and students in periods 5 and 6 would have their final exam on Friday. All students in all classes met on Thursday.

What to do?

Give each lab group a single sheet of colored 8.5"x11" paper, a pair of scissors, and a table-width length of masking tape (about 2 feet), along with the directive to use those materials to construct a free-standing tower of maximum height.

Only the paper and the tape could comprise the tower (not the scissors). The tower has to stand for 5 seconds while its height (from the table top) was measured. The tower had to stand freely on the table (not taped down; not suspended from the ceiling or dropped outlets). Each group is given a distinct color of paper, no two are the same. (This helps with the integrity.)

One point of extra credit was to be awarded for every full inch of the tower's vertical height.

Our tallest tower this year was 57 inches tall. (I conjoin two meterstick/yardsticks and sometimes need to stand on a chair to get the measurement. I also turn off the HVAC) In the past, I believe the tallest tower we've ever had was 63 inches. Not bad for a single sheet of letter paper.

The students tend to be motivated, and it was a great activity for an otherwise throwaway day. And it's photogenic.

2014 05 Tower