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Even the cold Ithaca spring weather wasn’t enough to damp the excitement of the almost 50 physics teachers that attended the 2016 American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) spring conference, co-hosted by XraiseCornell, on Saturday April 2nd.

The day included talks by Peter Wittich, on his past work at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, and Julia Thom-Levy, on the CERN particle accelerator. Both are Cornell associate professors of physics who co-sponsored the event through funding from the Particle Physics at the Energy Frontier Award #1307256, from the National Science Foundation. Research Assistant Professor Ryan Fisher, from Syracuse University, also presented on the recent news of the first observation of gravitational waves and on his work with Advanced LIGO.

In addition to the interesting talks there were other activities throughout the day such as the Physics Demo Contest where selected teachers presented on their favorite demonstrations to do in their physics classes. The winner of the day was the Genie-vs-the-Physicist show, where the Genie laid on a bed of nails assuring the crowd that he wouldn’t be punctured by the nails due to the power of his mind while the Physicist proved to him that it could all be explained with physics and understanding how pressure works.

Two workshops were presented by AAPT members and by Xraise Cornell. The Speed of Light Laboratory Investigation, one of the many labs from the Xraise Lending Library Program, was facilitated by Whitney Point physics teacher, Walter Peck. Walter explained how he inserts this lab into his curriculum and how he troubleshoots issues that often take place in his classroom. Participant teachers were appreciative of his advice and carried out the lab using a pulse generator, beam splitter, mirrors, photodiode and an oscilloscope to measure the speed of light with less than 2% error; “I am going to sign up to have the equipment sent to my high school so that my students can feel that same excitement,” wrote Richard Slesinski from Syosset High School in NY.

Groups of teachers also toured Peter Wittich’s lab facility in the Physical Sciences Building (PSB) as well as the labs of Michael Niemack (PSB) and Kyle Shen in Duffield Hall, both assistant professors of physics.



Submitted by: Eva Luna, CHESS, Cornell University