Archive | June 2013

Day 178: Goodbye, Mr. G.


Today was our last day of school. And sadly, we said goodbye to David Gewanter, who is retiring after teaching physics at John Jay for the past 7 years. It’s been great working with David. His friendship and mentorship have been invaluable both to faculty and students. He is an accomplished educator and gentleman, who has made a positive impact on the John Jay community. He introduced a new science elective, Environmental Physics, and organized field trips to CERN over school breaks. His students designed passive solar houses and studied the thermodynamics of clothing (which culminated in sleeping outside for a whole night). He taught life lessons in addition to physics, always ready with a funny or heartfelt story from his many adventures.

I’m not very good with goodbyes, so… Goodbye, David. We’ll miss you.

Postscript: Why only 178 days and not 180? After Hurricane Sandy and the winter snowstorms, we lost two days that we were unable to makeup. Have a great summer, everyone! See you in September!


Day 177: No More Microwave Experiments, Please!

20130620-215418.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: In looking back over the projects from the midterm and the final, I’m going to be placing some additional restrictions on projects next year:

  • No microwaves
  • No baking
  • No experiments you were capable of doing back middle or elementary school
  • No “Do heavy objects fall faster?” because we already did that in class
  • No objects rolling down ramps to see which rolls faster

Essentially, the project will have to be something they were only capable of doing this year because the project utilizes either:

  • new data collection techniques (e.g., video analysis, Vernier probes, etc.)
  • new physics concepts (e.g., calculating energies, analyzing momentum, etc.)

Hopefully, this will raise the bar for the projects. I want to simultaneously engage my kids in scientific inquiry AND see the world through a new lens by using their new physics tools and concepts.

Day 176: Candle Height vs. Burn Time

20130619-230905.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: A student project relating candle height to burn time. I particularly like her conclusion, in which she makes reference to the slopes of the graphs and what they mean. She did this on her own, with no prompting from me or a handout. I wish more students reasoned this way, rather than simply saying things like “when X increases, Y decreases.”

Day 175: All the Julia Sets!


AP Physics C: A student used pygame, a python-based programming language, to make this animated gif of a series Julia Sets. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here’s the how the c values progress to make the sets:

c = (-1-i); c = (-1-0.9i);  c = (-1-0.8i); … c = (-1+i)
c = (-0.9-i); c = (-0.9-0.9i); … c = (-0.9+i)
c = (-0.8-i); c = (-0.8-0.9i); … c = (-0.8+i)

c = (1-i); c = (1-0.9i); … c = (1+i)

He posted his project on GitHub:

Day 174: Conservation of Energy in a Horse Jump



20130614-193301.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: A student filmed several horse jumps and analyzed them in Logger Pro, calculating the gravitational, kinetic, and total energies. Great to see that the total energy remains relatively flat while the horse is in the air.

Day 173: Slinky Spring Constant vs. Number of Coils

20130614-164745.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: A student investigated the relationship between the number of coils in a slinky and its spring constant.

Day 172: Video Analysis of a Cartwheel




20130613-201045.jpgCollege-Prep Physics: Student used Logger Pro to do a video analysis of her doing a cartwheel. She tracked four different body parts: right foot, right hand, waist, and head. Really neat to see the different motions (constant velocity, constant acceleration) show up in the position and velocity graphs. Considering making this kind of analysis of human (or even animal) motion an assignment for next year.