Southeastern Pennsylvania Section of the
American Association of Physics Teachers

An organization to bring together high school and college physics teachers and other professionals working in science education


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National AAPT

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Special Programs:

Active Learning Workshop at Dickinson, June 19-21

Physics Reference Websites
NIST Reference Data

E-Print Archive
Workshop for New Teachers
Supported by a mini-grant from the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) to the Southeastern PA Section (SEPS), a workshop for new teachers was hosted at LaSalle University on October 9, 2010. Fourteen new teachers with 0-3 years of teaching experience and several veteran teachers participated in the workshop. At 9 am, Ling Liang from LaSalle University, welcomed all participants and introduced the event co-sponsors and workshop leaders. The day-long workshop consists of four sessions: Jay Bagley led labs and demos on mechanics, followed by Bob Schwartz's presentation on waves and optics, and Barry Feierman's demos on electricity and use of Vernier sensors. It was ended with an hour-long exploration of interesting internet sites for Physics.

The overall evaluation of the workshop was overwhelmingly positive. All pre-registered workshop participants received a copy of the AAPT publication "Teaching Physics for the First Time." The new teachers were also provided with one year free section membership and encouraged to join the American Association of Physics Teachers. Thanks again to the event host, workshop leaders, and the SEPS section officers for their hard work and great support!

Click here for pictures from the workshop.

14th Annual Demonstration Show at Penn
A two-hour presentation of Penn's best demonstrations of Electricity and Magnetism took place Monday Dec. 13 and Tuesday Dec. 14 at 9:30 and noon.

2010 Spring Meeting
SEPA was joined by NJ and Central PA sections for a regional meeting on March 12-13 at La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA. The theme was "How we teach may be more important than WHAT we teach..."
  • Friday 9-4: pre-conference PTRA Workshop on Physics with Video Analysis
  • Friday night: dinner, student poster session, and invited lecture (Derrick Pitts).
  • Saturday morning: invited speakers (Warren Hein, Matt Greenwolfe), contributed talks
  • Saturday afternoon: business meetings, great demos.
Click here for a brief report on the meeting. A summary of the meeting in photos may be found here.

Complete details (registration, agenda...) may be found here.

2009 Fall Demo Night
The 2009 Fall Demo Night was held on Friday, October 30th at the Science Leadership Academy at 22nd and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. Click here for report and pictures.

2009 Spring Meeting

The SEPS/AAPT Spring Meeting was held at Villanova University on April 24 and 25, 2009. Click here for pictures from the meeting.

Friday Night April 24
Philip Maurone from Villanova hosted the meeting. There were about 50 registered attendees. The meeting began with a dinner on Friday evening hosted by Villanova, followed by an invited talk on Energy and Environment given by Ken Lande from University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lande talked about what he described as the dominant problem of our society for the coming century: "the generation of enough energy to sustain our mode of living without at the same time creating severe and irreversible climate changes." He has been teaching a course on this topic at the University of Pennsylvania for the past several years entitled, "Energy, Oil and Global Warming". The goal of this course is not only to inform the students about issues that will profoundly affect their lives, but also to teach them that they are able to calculate the underlying numbers. During his talk, he discussed some of the critical issues about our energy utilization and its impact on the environment and used simple calculations to illustrate his examples. Among these calculations were: (1) the amount of CO2 emitted annually by U.S. power plants, (2) the Earth's temperature for a simplified Sun - Earth radiation balance model, (3) the maximum amount of corn based ethanol that can be produced in the U.S. and compare that to our annual petroleum consumption, (4) the power output of a wind turbine, (5) the amount of U-235 consumed per year by U.S. power reactors and the mass of the dominant fission products produced, (6) the battery stored electrical energy required for a hybrid or electric vehicle of a given driving range, etc.

Saturday April 25
On Saturday, our invited speaker, Bruce Sherwood, gave a talk titled "Unification and parsimony: Can students learn to think like physicists?" In this talk he described an approach to teaching that introduces students to a modern, unified view of physics in the introductory university-level (calculus based) course, Matter & Interactions, and to avoid the compartmentalization of topics and techniques that usually occurs. This course was developed in response to the major new discoveries in physics during the 20th century, the way practicing physicists think about physics has itself evolved. By reorganizing the introductory curriculum along the lines of 20th century physics, not only is it more authentic to the contemporary view of physics, it also can lead to significant cognitive benefits for students. This course is the only opportunity to convey this unified picture to the many students who will take no further physics courses, and this course is an optimum time to convey a unified view to the small number of potential physics majors who will spend the rest of their college careers studying specialized topics in significant depth. One way that this course is delivered is by introducing students to computational and physical modeling to explain and predict a broad range of natural phenomena by starting from a very small set of fundamental principles, combined with microscopic models of matter. This technique of computational modeling has become centrally important in all branches of science and engineering.

After this talk, a series of contributed talks followed. These talks had a general theme of Energy.

  • Jeff Wetherhold demonstrated Apple's Keynote as a way to animate presentations for a class.
  • Barry Feierman demonstrated different types of light bulbs and talked about the "warmth" of the light that each type of bulb emitted as a function of the energy each bulb consumed.
  • Jeff Goldader presented a cosmic ray detector that he mentored an advanced high school student to build using parts purchased off ebay and at Radio Shack.
  • Art Zadrozny presented a research project into alternative energy types and sources that he has his student complete and present. He also provided the grading rubric that is used to evaluate this assignment.
  • Carl Schmiedekamp presented the approach to reporting uncertainty using excel in his Introductory college physics lab course.
  • Fran Poodry demonstrated the flexibility and utility of VPython, a computational modeling programming language that is highlighted in Matter and Interactions.
  • Harriet Slogoff talked about how she saved on her energy bills by insulating her home. She introduced the idea of degree days as a tool to normalize the change in her energy bills.
  • Deborah Goldader demonstrated conservation of energy using a roller coaster made from cardboard and card stock as well as cardboard models of some everyday items.
The contributed talks were followed by the SEPS business meeting. The new officers for 2009-2010 were elected. The business meeting also highlighted AAPT initiatives including Associate Membership available to section members (click here for an application for Associate Membership). During the business meeting, a special award recognizing 50 years of Physics teaching was presented to Tom Foley at Saint Joseph's University by one of his former students Bill Berner.

The meeting recessed for lunch around 1 pm. After the lunch, Oliver H. Perry, the President of the Eastern Electric Vehicle Club of Valley Forge PA, led an Electric Car workshop. About half dozen electric vehicle owners and specialists also made themselves and the vehicles available for questions at the workshop. Click here for Ollie's report on the Electric Car Workshop.

Physics for the Season of Lights 2008
Bill Berner presented Penn's annual physics show on December 8th and 9th, 2008. This year's topic was "The Physics of Motion; or Newton as a Distraction from the Economy".

You can download (free!) a video of the demonstrations from the iTunes Store as follows:
  • select ITunes U
  • scroll down to University of Pennsylvania
  • select School of Arts and Sciences
  • under Physics and Astronomy, select Physics Demonstrations
This site includes E&M demonstrations from the 2007 show.

Momentum-Work-Energy Workshop For High school and Middle School Teachers
Don Scholl held the workshop at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart (Bryn Mawr) on Saturday, October 25, 2008. Click here to see some photos.

The 2008 FALL DEMO NIGHT was held at Sun Valley HS in Aston, PA. on Friday, October 17. Click here for Barry Feierman's report and pictures (a 1-MB MSWord file).

The 2008 Spring Meeting was held Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12 at St. Joseph's University. Click here for Barry Feierman's complete report (with pictures) in pdf format. Here is a brief summary of Barry's report.
Following Friday night's reception and dinner, Gino Segre, Professor of Physics at University of Pennsylvania, spoke on the topic of the Copenhagen Conference, and the early struggles with quantum theory.

On Saturday morning, Robert Beck Clark of Brigham Young University spoke on "A Teacher Preparation Program that Works." His talk was followed by contributed papers/demos by Connie Cooper, Marc Baron, Barry Feierman, Jeff Wetherhold, Deborah Goldader, and Harry Woodcock. Next, section officers for 2008-2009 were elected (see below for a list of officers). Gifts of appreciation were presented to John Patane, Chet Zack, and Bill Berner. The morning ended with the awarding of doorprizes.

After lunch, three simultaneous workshops were held: PTRA Gravity Workshop led by Don Scholl and Jeff Wetherhold, a Modeling Workshop led by Doug Vallette and Jess Dykes, and an open discussion of college topics, led by Paul Angiolillo.

The University of Pennsylvania 2007 Physics Demonstration Show was held Monday, December 10 and Tuesday, December 11, at David Rittenhouse Laboratory. Click here to see some pictures.

You can download (free!) a video of the demonstrations from the iTunes Store as follows:
  • select ITunes U
  • scroll down to University of Pennsylvania
  • select School of Arts and Sciences
  • under Physics and Astronomy, select Physics Demonstrations

The 2007 Fall Demo Night was held Friday, November 2 at Springside School. Here are Barry Feierman's comments (click here for Barry's pictures):
Last night's FALL DEMO NIGHT was a great success.

First, thanks again to our hosts at Springside School: Kim Eberle-Wang and Sarah Sullivan.

We had a wonderful time getting to know one another at dinner. We had about 40 in attendance.

And thanks to our Demonstation volunteers:
  • Ron Pedalty - polarizated light phenomena and a GIANT GIVE AWAY of polaroid lenses
  • Bob Schwartz - don't buy the dollar store LED flashlights and here's why and other financial matters... did anyone get Bob's T-shirt's meaning???
  • Liz Chesick and Tom Gordon duo - puzzles about rotation and moment of inertia (stumped all of us)
  • Tom Foley - wonderful website information
  • Debra Gordon (no relation to Tom) - mass on spring simulation with spreadsheets
  • Bill Berner - a very cool spectrophotometer that works with Vernier/Pasco interface (I want one of these). Bill also mentioned that the local amusement parks may be shutting down the Pasco/Vernier hardware on rides. You will hear more about this as we get new information.
  • Jeff Wetherhold - more very cool video animations made by Jeff (write to Jeff at wetherholdj -at- if you want to buy these.
  • Barry Feierman - a simple, cheap, inertial mass measuring gadget (under $10) for a 9th grade physics lab
  • Sandy Knott and Tom Lavanga of Perkiomen Valley HS - warped space and relativity - that soooo cool demonstration with the balls ..... and net. For more details, write to Sandy at sknotts -at- and Tom at tlavanga -at-
I continue to be impressed with the expertise in our section and how much fun it is to share ideas, demos, handouts. I'm nearing 39 years teaching high school at Westtown School and I know there is still much to learn about Physics.

So again, thank you to our hosts and to all of you for showing up for a fun night.

2007 Spring Meeting
The 2007 Spring Meeting, held at Swarthmore College on April 20 and 21, included the following:
  • Friday dinner with physics music provided by Walter Smith of Haverford College
  • Swarthmore profs panel: Modern Physics in the Introductory Curriculum
  • Tour of Swarthmore's Observatory and Saturn viewing
  • Saturday morning invited speakers (Peter Beckman on Intro Labs, Arthur Eisenkraft on Active Physics)
  • Poster session and vendor displays during lunch
  • Contributed papers / demos
  • Saturday afternoon workshop(s)
Click here for pictures from the meeting.

Annual Xmas demo show by Bill Berner at University of Pennsylvania
This year's holiday demo show was held on Monday and Tuesday December 11th and 12th, 2006. To quote Chet Zach: "Come see the best holiday physics show in Phila. at the Univ. of Penn.! Treat yourself and your students to an educational and fun time."

Demo Night - Friday, October 20, 2006
The 2006 Fall Demo Night was held Friday, October 20, at East High School in West Chester, hosted by Fran Poodry. The meeting was a big success, with a nice turnout.

There were demonstrations too numerous to list. Some of the highlights were:Dollar Store demos, Bungee-chord inertia, bridge rectifier with LEDs, the magic flask, the popcorn-bag count, radiaoactive half-life simulation, phases of the moon with styrofoam balls.

Last but not least, Jeff Wetherhold's "Physics is Phun" animated movies entertained us all with lots of laughsl.

"Physics is Phun" CDs are available from Jeff at wetherholdj -at-

Spring Meeting at St. Joseph's University, March 24-25, 2006
The Southeast Pennsylvania section held our annual spring meeting on March 24-25 at St.Joseph's University in Philadelphia. The meeting began with a dinner followed by short papers and demonstrations submitted by section members.

Our Saturday meeting began with a breakfast and then featured three invited speakers for the morning session. After lunch we had our business meeting and elected section officers for the year. The afternoon talks featured two professors from St. Joseph's University, our host. We adjurned without deciding on the location or date of the annual Fall Demo Night in October. We are also looking forward to continued good relations with our neighboring Central Pennsylvania and New Jersey sections.

Click here for the full report (with pictures).

York Spring Meeting, March 4-5, 2005
The spring meeting was held jointly by the Pennsylvania Central Section and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Section at York College. Over twenty talks and demos were presented. Here are some of the highlights, reported by Don Scholl:

Friday, March 4
8:30 - 3:00 PTRA Workshop: Electromagnetic Spectrum--Window to the Universe
Workshop Leaders, Pat Callahan and Dave McCachren
5:00 - 6:00 Student Research Poster Session
6:00 - 8:30 Banquet ... super job by our host Sardari Khanna
8:30 - 9:30 Public Talk: Dr. Pablo Laguna, of the Department of Physics and Astrophysics at Penn State University
"When Black Holes Collide: Exploring strong field gravity with 21st century computing power"

Saturday, March 5
9:00 AM Welcome: Dr. Tom Bogart, Dean of Academic Affairs, York College of Pennsylvania
9:10 Liz Chesick was presented an award for her service to the Southeastern Pennsylvania section.
9:20 Invited Talk: Mr. Jim Nelson, Past President of AAPT
Jim and Jane Nelson's presentation on teaching and on laboratory activities was very well done. They split the audience into groups of 6 and had them take data to illustrate the use of linear plotting of mass and volume data of a container of water with and without metal shot in it to find the density of metal shot. These methods can apply to teaching at any level, and I plan to use his step-by-step approach in this lab program because many of the freshmen here do not know these things. Jim was very emotional about our award and his college physics teacher who had a great influence on his life--who was in the audience. His teaching motto was a variation of the Hippocratic oath--Do No Harm.
10:00 Many great demos and talks were delivered.

The following note about the Central Pennsylvania meetings comes from Pat Callahan:
It is a unique character of these meetings that undergraduate physics majors use it as a forum to present results of their research since many of the colleges in the section require that their students make such presentations. I have always found these to be fun to observe; it is a pleasure to see these eager students discuss their research, even though I often don't understand their project. You may recall that Nobel Prize winner William Phillips mentioned that he got his start at a CentralPA Section meeting as a Juniata College undergrad (he mentioned this as part of the joint meeting we held at Moravian College a few years ago).