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Pomona College Workshop Provides "Motion & Forces" Physics Lessons for High School Teachers

As school districts slash budgets, Pomona College will host its Seventh Annual Physics Teachers Workshop on Saturday, February 21, 2009, providing Southern California high school physics teachers with free resources and instructions for hands-on physics experiments on “motion and forces” designed to inspire high school students. 

Focusing on “Motion and Forces,” the Workshop will include an introduction to video analysis of high-speed phenomena research and two hands-on lab activities: 


  • “Physics of Rock Climbing” – When rock climbing, anchors are used to guide and support a rope attached to the climber. It is critical to set up anchors so that in the event of a fall, the forces generated on the anchor will not cause it to fail. Students design and optimize various anchor systems to support a “climber” represented by a 10 N weight. Real climbers depend on belaying partners and anchors to control the rope should they fall. If either the anchor or the belayer fails, the result can be catastrophic. 
  • “Stunt Car Challenge” – We see examples of Projectile Motion in every aspect of our lives; a football punt or kick, a home run in baseball, a 9-iron golf shot or a stunt driver driving his car off a ramp. In this lab, teachers will find out how projectiles fired at angles behave and what distance they travel given a particular angle, using real-world applications to confirm our mathematical calculations of time and distance. 


After completing the workshop, teachers can reserve (from Pomona, which houses a West Coast branch of the CIPT, or from the Cornell Institute for Physics Teachers) an entire class set of lab equipment to use with their classes at no cost. 

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 2009 Pomona College workshop is co-sponsored by Pomona College, the CNS Institute for Physics Teachers and the National Science Foundation. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Five and one-half in-service credits will be awarded for participation. The event will be held at the Pomona College Milikan Laboratory, 610 N. College Ave., Claremont, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For a more detailed schedule, call (909) 621-8724 or visit

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.