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  • Matter & Interactions: Testing a New Physics Curriculum at

    Georgia Tech

    Matthew KohlmyerMichael Schatz

    Georgia Institute of TechnologySchool of Physics

  • Intro physics courses at GT

    Traditional curriculum Many students: 1700 per sem. in Phys. 1 & 2 Large lecture (>200 students) w/ small lab

    section (20 students) Problems:

    GPA significantly lower than other intro courses 25% Ds or Fs Unpopular w/ students

    Student newspaper routinely voices criticism

    External review committee criticized structure, outcomes of intro courses

  • Why change intro physics?

    Fails to prepare future scientists & engineers:

    Nanotechnology Materials science Quantum computation

    Tools needed: Computer modeling of

    complex systems Skills to solve new


    Problems with traditional course:

    Lack of 20th century physics

    Macroscopic (no atoms!) No computer modeling Emphasis on Equation

    hunting & Problem matching

  • New physics course

    Summer 2006: GT School of Physics to test Matter & Interactions curriculum Modernize course content Help improve course outcomes

    In collaboration w/ NC State, Purdue Examine challenges of implementing curricular

    change at large institutions Large universities Institutional inertia Static,

    entrenched curriculum Curriculum at large universities curriculum at

    small universities, colleges, high schools

  • Matter & Interactions(R. Chabay & B. Sherwood, Wiley, 2002)

    Modern, innovative introductory calculus-based physics curriculum

    In development for >10 years Adopted by Carnegie Mellon,

    NC State

  • Matter & Interactions

    Modern content Atoms and structure of matter

    Macro/micro connections E.g: Ball & spring model of solid can

    connect atomic motion with elastic deformation, thermal physics

    20th century physics Relativistic momentum and energy Quantum energy, atomic physics,


  • Matter & Interactions

    Modeling Fundamental principles

    Analyze systems starting from small number of principles, not large number of secondary formulas

    Multistep problems

    Assumptions, approximations, idealizations Messy, real-world systems: Simplify to get

    reasonable, approximate results

    Computer modeling

  • Computer modeling in M&I

    Analyze wide variety of systems Including problems not soluble analytically

    Power of fundamental principles 3D graphics: visualization of phenomena and

    abstract concepts VPython programming language

    Produce 3D graphics easily Relatively simple syntax Can teach novice programmers the basics in first lab

    period Freeware (see )

  • Interactive pedagogy

    Lectures Personal Response System (PRS)

    Labs Tightly integrated to course Studio environment:

    Hands-on experiments Computer modeling Group problem solving

    Homework WebAssign: Online homework system

  • Preparation (Spring 2006)

    Postdoc (Kohlmyer) Familiar with M&I content & logistics

    Materials Equipment for new lab activities Software (VPython, WebAssign)

    Advertising Informing academic advisors Email to eligible students Student newspaper article (Technique 4/7/06)

    TA training

  • Implementation

    Summer 2006: Pilot section M&I mechanics, 40 students (Kohlmyer)

    Fall 2006: Two sections M&I mechanics, 120 students (Schatz)

    M&I electromagnetism, 40 students (Kohlmyer)

  • Expansion (2-3 yrs)

    Spring 2007: One large (>200) section of each course (tentative plan)

    Future expansion requires more manpower: Faculty apprenticeship

    Prof. sits in on course, prepares to teach it in following semester

    Summer workshops Train new M&I instructors, discuss implementation issues

    TA training and TAA recruitment TAAs: Undergraduates who previously did well in course

  • Assessment Pre/post-testing w/ standardized instruments

    FCI (Force Concept Inventory) Common assessment tool in intro mechanics

    BEMA (Brief Electricity and Magnetism Assessment) Qualitative E&M test

    Open-ended evaluation: Collaboration with researchers in GT Psych. dept.

    Impact of principle-based instruction on problem-solving Impact of computer visualization

  • Impact at high school level

    Expansion large numbers of students in M&I at GT, many who are: transfers from other USG institutions from state high schools

    How can high school physics best prepare students for M&I? Weve contacted two local high school

    physics teachers: Julie Hall, Pace Academy Gus Dearolph, Woodward Academy

  • The Newtonian SynthesisOpen-ended prediction of motion into the future

    )r(F vv

    f= Force as a function of position

    t= Fpvv

    The momentum principle

    ppp vvv + Update momentum

    t+ vrr vvv Update positiondo it again

  • Homework problems in M&I

    Often multi-step Require analysis from fundamental

    principles Often require assumptions,

    approximations, estimates

  • a) Make a rough diagram to show qualitatively the effect on the spacecraft of this encounter with Mathilde. Explain your reasoning.

    b) Make a very rough estimate of the change in momentum of the spacecraft that would result from encountering Mathilde. Explain how you made your estimate.

    c) Using your result from part (b), make a rough estimate of how far off course the spacecraft would be, one day after the encounter.

    d) From actual observations of the location of the spacecraft one day after encountering Mathilde, scientists concluded that Mathilde is a loose arrangement of rocks, with lots of empty space inside. What was it about the observations that must have led them to this conclusion?

    Determining the mass of an asteroidIn June 1997 the NEAR spacecraft, on its way to photograph the asteroid Eros, passed within 1200 km of asteroid Mathilde at a speed of 10 km/s relative to the asteroid. From photos transmitted by the 805 kg spacecraft, Mathildes size was known to be about 70 km by 50 km by 50 km. It is presumably made of rock. Rocks on Earth have a density of about 3000 kg/m3 (3 grams/cm3).

  • Preparation

    Equipment purchases for new lab activities Youngs modulus apparatus

    Electricity kits (PASCO, specially designed for hands-on experiments in M&I E&M)

    Software VPython WebAssign: online homework system

  • Preparation

    Advertising GT Academic Advisor Network

    Email to students eligible to take course Article in student newpaper, 4/7/06

    Successful: Summer M&I Mech. and Fall M&IE&M are already full

  • Preparation

    TA training 4 TAs assigned to

    M&I courses in Summer & Fall

    Spring 2006: trained in

  • Execution

    Summer 2006 40 student section of M&I mech. (Kohlmyer)

    Fall 2006 120 student section of M&I mech. (Schatz)

    40 student section of M&I E&M (Kohlmyer)

    Spring 2007 One standard large (~250 students) of each


  • Intro physics at GT

    2 semester course Large lecture sections (>200 students)

    Small lab sections (20 students) Traditional calculus-based intro physics


  • Modeling and macro-micro connections

    Example: Ball & Spring model of a solid

  • t= Fpvv

    The momentum principle Computer model:

    Spring-mass systemLab: Measure

    Youngs Modulus of a metal wire

    Thermal energy & microscopic

    work (heat transfer)

    Speed of sound in solids

    Ball & spring model of solids Quantized


    Entropy (statistical


  • Preparation (Spring 2006)

    TA training New lab activities

    VPython programming Group problem solving

    Content of problems Coaching students


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