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High School Physics Teachers Get Help From Pomona

On February 26, Pomona College will host its third annual Physics Teacher Workshop providing Southern California high school physics teachers with updates on advances in physics and hands-on experiments designed to meet the time and budgetary constraints of a typical high school.

Focusing on “Electrons in Circuits,” with an emphasis on electronics in consumer products, the program includes “Too Cool to Resist,” a demonstration exploring superconductivity, and two hands-on activities.

  • The "Water Circuit Lab" is a classroom activity designed to teach the properties of electric circuits such as current, potential, resistance and the relationships between them. Water circuits provide an excellent comparison to simple electric circuits, but few students have experience with fluid dynamics. This lab allows a hands-on investigation of water flow, including current, pressure and resistance, in series and parallel arrangements, which can be related to electric current, potential and electric resistance.
  • The "Ohm’s Law Lab" is a classroom activity to determine the relationship between voltage, resistance and amperage. In this activity, students are led through a series of readings and short experiments leading to the task of determining the relationship between voltage, resistance and amperage. In the end, they are asked to design their own experiment to determine this relationship given several different voltage sources and a constant resistance. By numerical and graphic analysis, students derive Ohm’s law and test their derivation on a resistor of unknown resistance.

According to David Tanenbaum, an associate professor of physics at Pomona College, “Most students get their first introduction to physics in high school classrooms, and we realize that many high school teachers have only minimal budgets and facilities. Our goal is to excite teachers and give them additional tools to excite their students. We hope the hands-on experiments will do that.”

The 2005 Pomona workshop is co-sponsored by Pomona College, the CNS Institute for Physics Teachers and the National Science Foundation. It will be held at the Pomona College Millikin Laboratory, 610 N. College Ave., Claremont, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For a more detailed schedule, call (909) 621-8724.

For the first time, Pomona and CIPT will also run a mini-workshop for a local school district. Pomona Physics Teacher Workshops have been so well received that the Whittier Union School District is co-sponsoring mini-workshop on “Physics with LEDs,” on Friday, February 25. A reprise of Pomona’s 2003 program, this event was organized by Lena Delgado, a mathematics and science teacher from Whitney High School who attended both of Pomona’s previous workshops, as well as a series of summer workshops at Cornell Institute for Physics Teachers (CIPT).

The February 25, mini-workshop for Whittier teachers will include a reprise two of the popular activities from the 2003 Pomona program:

  • "Phantastic Photon" - Different colors of light are directly related to the energy and wavelength of the photons which compose that light. Students investigate these relationships by shining colored light from super-bright LEDs onto fluorescent paint and glow-in-the-dark tape, observing the emitted light by eye and with a handheld spectrometer. Students order the colors of light from highest to lowest energy and determine the role of light intensity by exciting the energy level transitions involved in fluorescence.
  • "Light Emitting Diodes" (LED) - Using super-bright light-emitting diodes students investigate the conversion of electrical energy into light. Measuring and comparing the energy lost by each electron with the frequency of the emitted light for several LED colors allows students to determine Plank's constant, a fundamental number in quantum mechanics. Students also investigate other properties of LEDs and learn why they are increasingly used as indicators and light sources.

“Physics with LEDs” is co-sponsored by Pomona College, CIPT and the Whittier Union School District. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be held at the Whittier Union School District, 9401 S. Painter Ave., Room MV 200, Whittier.

In conjunction with these workshops, Pomona College will establish a West Coast branch of the successful CIPT lending library, opening this spring. The lending library will allow teachers who have participated in one of the Pomona/CIPT workshops to borrow full classroom sets of supplies for many of the laboratory and demonstrations that are taught at the workshops. Teachers can check out the supplies for a week before returning them to the library.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. It’s hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.


David Tanenbaum
Associate Professor of Physics, Pomona College, &
Visiting Scientist, Cornell University, School of Applied and Engineering Physics
Phone: (607) 255-7853

Monica Plisch
Director, CNS Institute for Physics Teachers, &
Lecturer, Applied and Engineering Physics
Cornell University
Phone: (607) 255-2102

Lena Delgado
Physics Teacher
Whitney High School, Cerritos
Campus Phone: (562) 926-5566 x22341

BonnieJo Panagos
Whittier Union School District
9401 S. Painter Ave., Whittier
Phone: (562) 698-8121 ext. 1171
Fax: (562) 693-4136

Lending Library Information