Archive for the ‘Workshops’ Category

In a previous post I wrote about the Fish Tank Cloud Chamber workshop funded by IoP and organized by Cerian Angharad in Cardiff and I promised I would run one in Gloucester. Well, this evening I did and all delegates had great fun taking part in the filming of the iMovie trailer you can see below. I made using an iPad third generation and it was very easy to do, because these trailers come with the storyboard already set up for you. In fact, all the clips, places for captions and duration of the trailer are fixed, which means that you really need to focus on the message you want to convey and do it in the simplest way possible. But it also prevents you from adding too much to your video. Also, I like the fact that there is no dialogue and the message is communicated entirely through the clips and captions you create!

These are important skills for any learner and I would encourage any educator with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to let their pupils create these short trailers for their learning. I got the inspiration for this one and other trailers I made by the inspiring work Gavin Smart does with his learners at Priory Community School.

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I attended the IoP make and take workshop to build my own fish tank cloud chamber last Thursday and it was a great experience! The workshop was organised and led by Cerian Angharad and held at St Teilo’s CW School. The tank is really easy to build and quite cheap too. All you need is some sticky felt, which you stick at the top (which is actually the bottom of the tank) and soak with alcohol, a plastic fish tank, a metal tray, on which the top of the fish tank needs to be stuck to with duck tape and you’re done. The rest is a normal shallow tray that can be found in most school labs, a sheet of polystyrene to rest on the bottom of the tray and dry ice that goes between the polystyrene and the tray with the fish tank resting on it. See the photo below to have a better idea!

The rod in the middle of the tank is a radioactive welding rod which emits alpha particles. The chamber works really well and you can soon see lovely traces from the  alpha particles emitter by the rod. Some of the tanks that were made also showed very clearly cosmic rays/background radiation coming into the tank from the sides.

This is one of the best workshops I have even been to and the tank is great for radioactivity demonstrations, as the whole class can gather around it and see what’s going on. I will certainly run the workshop in my area in Gloucestershire, so contact me if you are interested in attending. If you are too far from Gloucestershire, find your IoP Network Coordinator here and ask them if and when they will run this workshop in your area!

Watch the video below to get a feeling for what you will see in your tank!

I was privileged to be at the ASE Conference last week and meet so many great Science Educators in the flesh! In particular it was lovely to meet so many who regularly tweet at the #ASEChat.

It was also great to run, for the third consecutive year, my Modulated Laser Pen workshop which is always very well received and attended. This year, as usual there were quite a lot Norwegians and several from other parts of Europe, which shows again how good the conference is to attract educators from so many parts of Europe!

Coming back to the workshop, it consists in building a modulating circuit to add in series to the laser diode in a laser pointer and the whole kit costs less than £20, but the IoP provides it for all participants free of charge! The receiver is simply a small photovoltaic cell plugged into a Radio Shack mini-amp through a Jack lead. You can find the instructions to make your own and some teaching ideas in this resource I uploaded on TES (just click here). Most parts can be found from Rapid Electronics and the mini-amp from Amazon.

Another cause for celebration and enjoyment was the 10th Anniversary of the Institute of Physics Teacher Network, which has run very successfully for all that time and of which I have the privilege to be part as the Network Coordinator for the area of Gloucestershire!

Last night we had our first TeachMeet entirely dedicated to the teaching of Physics in Gloucestershire and despite the inclement weather and illnesses a few teachers from the region managed to come and give some great presentations! A particular thank you goes to Helen Rogerson (@hrogerson) who took the time to record two videos for us to watch. And that’s what we did! In fact, the TeachMeet began with Helen’s 7 minutes video which showed some great stuff she does wit their learners and parents with revision. Of particular interest to the participants was the part on Electromagnetic Induction, which sparked a series of interesting discussions and caused us to go back and watch the lovely demonstrations several times. This was indeed a lovely part of our TeachMeet that I believe stood out from others I have attended and organised in the past. In fact, it is quite easy to rush through all the presentations trying to fit everyone in and forget about allowing the participants time for discussion and to network. But last night ideas on alternative ways to use the equipment and extensions to the demos were freely flowing and created a very relaxed atmosphere from the very beginning.

Next, IoP award winner Kevin Betts showed a great demo of “Dancing Waves” on custard on the cone of a speaker. You can see his Magic in the video below.

Steve Rice was up next showing us how he uses  a sparkler attached to a drill to simulate the gravitational attraction between the earth and the moon. As the sparkler spins around the drill, the sparks fly along the tangent to the circle drawn by the sparkling tip, which helps the learners visualise what would happen if the gravitational pull between the two heavenly bodies suddenly disappeared. I liked this demonstration because it allows the learners to think outside the box and stretch their understanding in the realm of the abstract.

Below is a video of these two lovely demonstrations.

After that it was my turn to talk about how I used one of the best iPhone/iPad apps I have ever come across, the Vernier Video Physics, with my learners. You can find this resources on the TES website here. It was also the first time I publicly announced my new role as Science Lead at TES commencing in January and I explained that, although I occasionally use it already, I will actively interact with the Twitter sphere using @TESScience from then.

We closed the TeachMeet with our sponsors’ raffle, which included a very generous box full of Nelson Thornes books, ranging from GCSE revision guides to a Muncaster tome 4th edition. ThinkBuzan also offered a free copy of their Mind Mapping software iMindMap 5 Ultimate (the last two links are affiliate links, so Google iMindMap 5 instead, if you are bothered by this sort of thing).

Two other teachers emailed me apologising they couldn’t attend due to illness, but they sent links to interesting stuff that they would have shared in person, if they had been there. The first is the YouTube video below about mixing colours with glow sticks shared by Bernadette Willey.

The other tool is Poll Everywhere shared by Lewis Matheson, which seems a really neat tool to use with mobile devices!

I thoroughly enjoyed myself last night and I learnt a lot (as usual) from innovative colleagues in the Gloucestershire Network. I hope to see many more at our next events in the new year.

Last week I finally got round doing something I had wanted to do with my Yr11 classes for a long time. We acted a Displacement – Time graph. This might not sound amazing to you and I have done a similar activity in the past, but this time the difference was that my learners could actually check their outcomes very quickly and without having to guess if their movements reflected the D-T graph faithfully, as they could use what I think is one of the best iPhone/iPad App for Physics, the Vernier Video Physics app!

Indeed, we could have used cameras to record the videos and upload the videos on our laptops to use with Tracker, but the versatility of an iPad and the simplicity of the Vernier Video Physics app made things very easy and intuitive.

So, what’s this activity about? Well, the learners split into groups of 3-4 and analyse the graph below.

Then, they organise themselves to act the graph. So, one person will walk along a straight line to mimic the graph, whilst the others in the group could help signposting important parts of the graph, as well as keeping the time.

You can see how the Vernier Video Physics app renders the video after tracking the object in each photogram. The images at the end are the displacement and velocity analysis after the tracking has been completed!

What do you think? Is this group representing the graph well?

Today was the first day of NGfL Cymru‘s presence at the Skills Cymru (Cardiff Millenium Stadium) and we were showing ourFree Vocational resources and our links with National Learning Network (NLN) to teachers and students. We were also engaging the children who stopped at our stand with some fun activities, like building walls with Lego bricks, folding napkins (we have learnt many fancy folds today) and building loudspeakers out of plastic and paper cups which were kindly donated to us by Starbucks and Burger King. Unfortunately, McDonalds decided not to be quite so generous and gave us no cups (I was very surprised about that, but maybe they too feel the effects of the Recession). Check out the instructional video on how to make the speakers below.

I have adapted this activity from one of the workshop the Institute of Physics does, i.e. Son of New Ideas. The link takes you to the group about this workshop on TalkPhysics. The IoP version of this loudspeaker is made with cup cake paper stuck at the back of children exercise books and it is a really nice activity, but because there is a lot of noise at the Skills Cymru event we went for a more powerful version and a bit quicker to build!

This activity is really good to get students engaged with Electromagnetic Induction, because they all have speakers and getting to know how they work and make one in few very simple steps brings the Physics to life immediately. They actually were amazed to find out that there really isn’t much more in a commercial speaker than the version they made (well there is a bit more, but the basic principle is the same). They are also finding very interesting to discover that their friends’ speaker is louder than theirs, for example, and they ask a lot of questions about why this might be! This is a good opportunity to use this activity in the classroom, as you could investigate whether the volume of the cup makes a difference in the intensity of the sound emitted, or the number of coils, the material of the cup, etc. And it is a nice opportunity to dig out your data loggers to measure the sound intensity and develop some interesting aspects of How Science Works. I hope you will have as much fun as we at NGfL Cymru are having with this nice idea.

Thanks to IoP for their ever amazing bank of resources and winning ideas!

Here is a lovely classroom demonstration that I saw at the ASE Conference 2010 in Nottingham. The demo was part of the Physics Education Lecture, which displayed the best of the PhysEd magazine. I really learned a lot and was well impressed by the quality and creativity of the demonstrations, activities and workshops proposed by the Institute of Physics. As one of the IoP Network Coordinators I was very proud to be part of the Institute and see how many outstanding workshops and lectures they put together for the event. Apparently, the IoP did the majority of workshops and they were all free of charge, although the conference was organised by the ASE.

Anyway, coming back to our demonstration. At the lecture it was shown using two small glasses, so when I went back to my lab I thought; “What would happen, if I use two very tall columns of water? And this was the result!

Why don't the two liquids mix?

So, why won’t the two liquids mix?

I put cold water in the bottom column with some blue food colouring and boiling hot water in the top column with some red food colouring. The tricky bit is how to turn the top column upside down, as it is really hot and heavy, but it was well worth it! So, I put a sheet of paper on the top and then carefully turned it upside down (you might need a helper to do this). Then, I placed the top column on bottom one and as you can see, and unlike what the kids would expect, the red and blue water don’t mix. They actually stay unmixed for a very long time (over an hour at least).

But how do we explain such an effective phenomenon? Well, the hot water is less dense than the cold water at the bottom, as its particles have more kinetic energy, hence moving further apart from each other. The result is that we have two liquids of different density, with the less dense one at the top, which therefore will float on top of the denser cold water. It is a bit like having oil and water, you can tell your students!

This is a really nice demonstration that will really help your pupils to understand that hot liquid rises and cold liquid falls. It’s not only very memorable, but it also shows quite clearly that in heat convection currents it’s not the “heat” that rises, but the hot liquid, or gas.

On the 18th November 2009 a group of Physics teachers from South Wales met in Caerleon School to build giant air cannons out of a 200 litres water butt. I organised the event with Cerian Angharad’s help (South Wales Network Coordinator) and the lovely cakes that Ann Dunster (Head of Physics at the school) provided! All the equipment could be found in Wickes (though the first time I went to buy some of these huge water butts in the Cardiff branch, they told me they either got lost, or stolen… Mmm I still have to figure that one out).

Cutting holes through the butt

These chaps were not very happy when I produced my electric saw after they struggled for 15 minutes to cut their butt with a wood knife, but certainly that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

This workshop is very useful if you are organising some spectacular activities for your Open Evening. I trialled it in my school (Croesyceiliog School, Cwmbran) and both parents and children loved it. In fact, we filled the giant air cannon with fog from a smoke machine and started shooting at people, who would see these massive smoke circles getting towards them and eventually blasting in their faces! But the fun was not over because we used McFlurry cups and tops to get the children to make their own mini-airzookas. And again the kids loved it, because they could take a little present home that costed nothing to my department, but was good fun for them.

Blasting the cameraman!

The below video shows how you can make you mini-aizooka. All you need to do is going to McDonald and order a McFlurry icecream. The rest you probably have in your house!

But what is the educational value, you might think! Well, there are a number of projects and experiments you pupils could carry out with their mini-airzookas:

1. They could make some observations about what affects the shape, speed and distance travelled by the smoke ring. E.g. by tapping the rubber in different ways, by pulling it and releasing it, etc…

2. They could try to measure the speed of the smoke rings and/or the distance travelled when they tap using more and more force. This activity could generate some very good discussions about reliability of results and method.

3. They could also measure the diameter of the rings at a certain distance from the cannon.

4. A follow on from experiment 2 could be a project were they need to design and build the most reliable tapping mechanism they can. You could even embed this as part of a long term project on electromagnetism, as the children could try to make an eletromagnetic tapper, and so on.

Please, add some more suggestions as comments!

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