Twenty Years and Counting!
Program Director: Bill Berner
2018 Program Description
What is PSSA - Experimental Physics Research Academy?
PSSA - Experimental Physics Research Academy is a three week program that focuses on modern physics with an emphasis on hands-on experience and laboratory work. There is no requirement of a previous physics course, although typically about half of our students have taken one prior to attending the program. To accomodate differences in preparation, we spend the first week learning mechanics in preparation for a field trip to a local amusement park. On that trip, each lab group selects a few rides to fully analyze with the help of electronic data logging devices and computers that were used in the first week of the program. Students choose the level at which they work on this project, and there is room for all levels of experience to grow. Once everyone has a foundation in mechanics, we take advantage of the vast research facilities on Penn's campus to explore modern physics topics that are out of reach for most high school programs.

Students determining the speed of light.
How does it work?
A typical day starts with several lectures. These lectures will include preparation for the afternoon's lab, discussion of topics related to upcoming field trips, and presentations of important ideas in physics. Once or twice each week, faculty members from Penn speak about their research work, and in the last week of the program, students present group reports on the work they have done while at PSSA. Afternoons are typically spent in the lab.

Derek Pitts from the Franklin Institute taking time to teach PSSA participants about sunspots and solar flares.
Where can I apply?
Click on the link in the menu to get to the Summer Science Acadmey home page. Through this page, you can find more information about the program in general as well as an online application. All applicants should discuss their interests in math or science in their essay and specify the track in which they are interested.
Students at Hershey
Students planning their experiment at Hershey Park.

Bill Berner preparing students for lab.
What is learned?
Each week of the PSSA - EPRA program is devoted to one or two major topics. The first week of the program is devoted to mechanics and optics. In the second week, we begin with basic electricity and magnetism and finish with a measurement of Planck's constant using the knowledge and lab skills developed throughout the week. In the third week, students can choose to work in one of our research labs or various modern topics in physics with graduate teaching assistants and professors at Penn and each lab group will construct and use its own apparatus to measure the speed of light.

PSSA Student presenting research completed at Penn.

What else should I know?
The program is set up to allow students time to become familiar with all the hardware they use and to actually assemble and test some of it themselves. The goal is for students not just to leave the lab with data, but also to understand that data and know how reliable it is. Throughout the program, cooperative work and communication is emphasized. Lab groups change each week, and in the last week, lab groups present their reports orally to the entire program. Field trips to an amusement park, the Franklin Institute, and other lcoal museums will supplement the regular schedule. We also tour Penn's research labs, and hear from current researchers about their work. The program closes with a presentation of incredible physics demonstrations by our director, Bill Berner.

Program staff includes multiple members from Penn's Department of Physics and Astronomy, a student teaching assistant, and outstanding physics teachers from local high schools.

PSSA participants studying acceleration.

Last modified: 06/28/2018 by M. Pandya
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