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Minutes of Physics TheoryNet Meeting, 9/26/09

Physics Theorynet meeting, September 26, 2009
Room 218 DA, Northeastern University, Boston

Minutes/Action items:


Participating Teachers:
Rick Dower, Roxbury Latin School
Jesus Hernandez, Lawrence H.S.
Michael Hirsh, Needham H.S.
Ann Kaiser, La Salle Academy, Providence
Nancy Najmi, Reading Memorial H.S.
Noreen Scarpitto,
Reading Memorial H.S.
Chris Siren, Groton-Dunstable Regional H.S.
Mike Wadness, Medford H.S.

Participating Theorists:
Brent Nelson, Northeastern
Matthew Headrick, Brandeis
Brandon Murakami, Rhode Island College
Ken Olum, Tufts

Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy
Nick Nicastro, Wachusett Regional H.S.
Farhad Riahi, Commonwealth School of Boston

Allan Adams, MIT
Per Berglund, University of New Hampshire
Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado, Tufts
Albion Lawrence, Brandeis
Tomasz Taylor, Northeastern

1. (Re)introductions:
We were joined by a new teacher, Noreen Scarpitto, from Reading Memorial High School as well as a new theorist, Matthew Headrick from Brandeis University. Returning for their second visit were Ann Kaiser from La Salle Academy, Brandon Murakami from R.I. College, Chris Siren from Groton-Dunstable and Nancy Najmi from Reading Memorial HS. A number of our members were unable to attend the meeting, including the principal investigator, Tomasz Taylor from Northeastern University.

2.  Update on high-school visits: spring/summer 2009:
To get caught up on the meeting I missed last semester I asked everyone to recount the visits they had since January 2009. Some were recounted in our minutes from the June meeting. Brandon's visit to La Salle Academy apparently had the effect of boosting enrollment this fall in the next physics course in the sequence there. Albion Lawrence visited Roxbury Latin in the fall, where he discussed the early history of cosmology and the notion of cosmic expansion. He was unable to visit in the spring term. Jose Juan was unable to get to Mike Wadness's class at Medford HS, but Mike was able to use the electron diffraction apparatus to discuss the wave properties of matter. Tom Taylor also used the equipment at Reading HS. Brent spent a day talking to several sections of physics students at Needham HS. Ken discussed time travel and magnetic monopoles at Farhad's class at the Commonwealth School. 

3. Fall AAPT/APS Meeting: 
We had a brief discussion of the upcoming fall meeting of the AAPT/APS at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH on 10/16 and 10/17. Our New Hampshire contingent was unable to attend the meeting to report on the organization of the meeting. It was unclear whether a presentation or workshop could be organized in sufficient time to be presented at the upcoming meeting but it was agreed that some effort towards advertising the TheoryNet program should be made to the collected instructors who will attend. As the program grows numerically and geographically we can begin to consider giving plenary session talks at such meetings in the area.

4. Advertising/website: 
A website with more extensive content was generally agreed to be an important tool in giving potential new recruits somewhere to find more information about the nature of the TheoryNet program. Jesus' student was beginning this process -- some follow-up on the status of that initial effort is in order. In the interim, some additional materials could be placed on our current web location being hosted by at Tufts. A list of participants and the TheoryNet brochure (in PDF form) will be included. Additional suggestions from other participants are welcome.

5. Equipment: 
The electron diffraction experiment is back at Northeastern and is available for anyone who would like to use it in his or her class. Our two cloud chamber demonstrations are at Needham HS and Medford HS. The e/m apparatus we currently have is with Scott Goelzer at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy. We recently purchased a Video Flex 7600 Projection Microscope which allows objects viewed through a microscope to be projected onto a movie screen via a computer or laptop. This is particularly useful for Milikan oil-drop type experiments that involve an eyepiece. This item is also at Northeastern and is available for use by the group. Three different quotes for another Milikan-type experiment were received over the last few months. One of the companies sent an apparatus to Northeastern on a trial basis. Attempts to get it to work properly by the theorists at Northeastern were inconclusive. It was given over to the more capabale hands of Mike Hirsh and Mike Wadness to see what they could do with it. If it works well we could order several since they are relatively inexpensive. Otherwise the consensus was to pull the trigger on one of the more expensive (and presumably more reliable) pieces of equipment. Furthermore, the item we were sent involves droplets of latex, not oil, and it was pointed out that concerns about latex allergies may make this problematic.

The idea was put forward to use some of the money allotted to equipment to purchase one or more high voltage power supplies.

6. GK-12 Proposal. A proposal for a Brandeis- UNH- Tufts- Northeastern GK-12 grant, with Tufts as the leading institution (Ken Olum, PI; Per Berglund, Albion Lawrence, Tom Taylor Co-PIs) was submitted over the summer months. It is remotely possible that some decision on that grant proposal could be at hand by our next meeting in January, but it is more likely that we will learn the status of the proposal in the spring.

7. Expansion: Scott Pennington who teaches at Essex High School in Essex Junction, Vermont expressed interest in participating. Ken Olum put him in touch with Noah Graham at Middlebury College. In December, we had an inquiry from Gary Bent who teaches in Mansfield H.S. in CT, so we will try to contact U.C. Storrs or Central Connecticut State this fall. There have been a number of new hires in the general Boston area over the last two years. We hope to have Jesse Thaler from MIT joining us this spring. Xi Yin and Matthew Schwartz at Harvard and Allan Adams at MIT are additional recent hires we hope to get involved over the coming year. If interest expands in the Providence area there are colleagues at Brown we can potentially recruit to fill that demand.

A general discussion about recruiting, particularly of high school instructors, ensued. The past years have seen us take some initial steps towards spreading the word about the program to a broader audience, but our response rate could be improved. Ken asked whether the problem is that our program is still relatively unknown, known but misunderstood (particularly as to the commitment level involved), or known well but not meeting the needs and interests of high school instructors. Understanding which is most often the case would help us hone our recruiting materials. 

Suggestions for future direct solicitation/website/brochure versions included the following:
*) Make it more clear that the program is not intended solely for the city of Boston
*) Include some additional testimonials from participating instructors as to how they have used the program
*) Down-play the "joining an organization" aspect and play up the "matchmaking" aspect --  i.e. make it clear that we have a stable of theorists eager and waiting to come out to classrooms. The assumption is that we can gather the needed faculty resources at a relatively quick pace if needed.
*) In connection with the above, publish a list of participants to give a sense of the scope of the program.
*) Finally, it was suggested we be more specific about the equipment we offer participants
8. New(ish) Pairings: 
Most pairings will remain unchanged for the next school year. We hope to have Allan Adams start collaborating with Chris Siren. Matt Headrick will take over Tom's pairing with Reading Memorial HS. Tom was also paired with Nick Nicastro at Wachusett Regional HS. This spot can be taken by Brent in the short term or we can wait until the January meeting and pair Nick with one of the new faculty members we hope to have brought on at that time.

9. The next meeting is (tentatively) scheduled for January 9, 2010, with an alternate date of January 23.

Brent Nelson
Department of Physics
Northeastern University
110 Forsyth Street
111 Dana Research Center
Boston, MA 02115
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