Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Carousel of Physics

One of the most satisfying experiences in teaching is to hear from a former student who is making a big splash in the world. As a physics teacher, I like to learn about former students who are finding success in that field. However, nothing beats being contacted by a former student who is teaching science.

I had this wonderful experience again last week when Kristen (Turner) Ritter sent me an invitation to the Maker Faire Bay Area on May 20-22. Kristen is a Teacher Coach at Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy in Goleta California.

The 80 seniors in the DPEA are presenting their capstone project, the 3D Arcade, at this year's Maker Faire. According to Kristen, "viewers can use tablets to interface with 15 individually unique games. They can manipulate balls and other mechanisms to overcome obstacles and solve problems. All of the arcade games have been created to be fun and engaging while demonstrating various concepts of physics." To back this claim up, she linked to last year's project, the Carousel of Physics:

If you think that was impressive, take a look at this video of the Waves and Oscillations Sector:

After seeing this amazing project I was not surprised to learn that the Director of DPEA, Amir Abo-Shaeer, is a MacArthur Fellow. Amir and his team have created a unique project and design based program at DPEA that I am sure we could all learn from. We have a project-based learning program at Los Gatos High School called New Tech. It is the kind of thing that can get more students to look forward to going to school.

I have been in contact with Kristen since she decided to become a teacher after graduating from UCSB with a physics degree in 2006. When she was given a physics teaching job and needed advice, I was able to help by showing her the many resources that generous physics teachers post online like Dean Baird's Phyz Website. I also sent her a "care package" of items from our PTSOS workshop including a copy of Paul Robinson's Conceptual Physics lab manual. Older editions of this must-have resource can be downloaded for free from the publisher.

It never ceases to amaze me how high school physics teachers are always paying it forward to the next generation. We can all take some pride in seeing what they accomplish like the Carousel of Physics.

I am disappointed that I didn't get to see the Carousel of Physics when it was at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. I will certainly not miss the chance to see the 3D Arcade and chat with Kristen and her students. I hope to see you there, too.

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