Posts Tagged ‘IoP’

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.

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.

I first saw the demonstration in the video below done by Clare Thomson at the “Best of PhysEd” lecture at the ASE Conference in 2010. Ever since I tried to make various versions of it, from using two very tall gas columns, filming it with high frame rate cameras, etc. But today I think I have made a really interesting variation of this really nice demo. The video below was made this morning in my kitchen.

Recreating this demo is very simple and I strongly recommend you do it with your classes, because the colours in the video don’t really reflect what you can see with your naked eye. I used water beads that I previously immersed in water containing blue food colouring for the cold water beads and red food colouring for the hot water beads. You will need to leave them in dyed water for about 8 hours. Then, I put cold water in the glass with blue beads and boiling water in the glass with red beads. When you mix cold and hot water with the cold water at the top, the red bead (much hotter) will rush upwards and the blue beads (much colder) will fall downwards. As the two types of beads swap places you have a nice simulation of what happens to the particles from hot and cold water, i.e. with more or less kinetic energy, when they mix. You have a very visual representation of a convection current forming in the two glasses. There is a limitation though, in fact, you can see that after a while the red beads begin to fall and collect at the bottom on top of the blue beads, but this is still quite effective at making the point that they have swapped places.

This blog post is about a great demonstration I got from David Featonby from the Institute of Physics and a little adaptation I thought about after seeing his version. He tipped us all up on a really cool vacuum container to store coffee which you can find here. Then, he put a teddy bear shaped marshmallow in, closed the lid and sucked the air out. The effect is really dramatic as you see the teddy bear mallow increasing in size and become “huge”. My boys think it is a Humongous Mallow (only avid Ben 10 fans will understand the reference).

Anyway, the advantage of using this container instead of a normal empty bottle of wine is that you can put much bigger things inside and that’s where I thought of this additional demo to do with this device. There are various ways in which you could introduce the demo. For example, you could watch a bit of a scientifically questionable Sci-fi film and ask your kids “Is it possible?” The clip I have in mind is Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Han Solo hides the Millenium Falcon inside an Asteroid cave (which turns to be a giant worm’s belly). In that part of the film the crew goes out of the spaceship wearing their normal clothes and just a tiny breathing mask, as if 🙂

The point here is that if Han Solo and friends were on an asteroid in outer space, they would be surrounded by almost perfect vacuum and their internal body pressure would cause them to pop as soon as they get out of the ship! So, what would your students think? Would they believe it is possible?  Would they think they would just freeze?

At this point you can show your coffee saver and put a tea cake inside. Then, ask the kids what they think would happen if we could take most of the air out!

And see their faces as this happens!

You can now go back and ask the same question from the Star Wars clip. Is it possible? What would happen to Han Solo and his crew?

Please, see my next blog post as there is an interesting update pointed out by Ashley Kent (@AshleyKent) that suggests that your body wouldn’t actually blow up in space! So, the demo is becoming even more interesting and pedagogically really valuable, as we have the opportunity to really confuse our kids up to then let them construct a new and stronger meaning. This is active Constructivism and Metacognitive Conflict brought to its extremes 😉

Thank you Ashley for pointing this out!

At last I have found some time to check Prezi out, and it’s even better when you can use this time to fit it in with your job. As a Field Officer at NGfL Cymru, I am trying to develop resources that give opportunities to learners and educators to explore the latest technology and its applications in sound Learning and Teaching. So, I could not leave Prezi out, especially after all the feedback I had received before I started using it myself! However, I wanted to find a use that was not just different from another way of presenting (which in my opinion is not the point and certainly not what would make Prezi stand above PowerPoint, because we’ll soon have death by Prezi if we are not careful),  but that would have real educational value and that would be an advantage to anyone using Prezi in this way!

To cut a long story short, I was wondering what it would be like to mind map with Prezi, and by mind mapping I mean following the mind mapping rules set up by Tony Buzan (the creator of Mind Mapping himself). One of the greatest advantages of Prezi in drawing mind maps is the ability to embed videos in your Prezi mind maps, something we haven’t seen before (at least I haven’t in other mind mapping software). Also, assigning a path to your mind map allows you to show and share your thought process very clearly. In this way using a Prezi mind maps could become a very effective presentation tool, but also a revision tool for your students who will need less assistance from the author of the mind map, because the sequence of events and areas of focus is decided by the path set by the author themselves! However, if a learner prefers to go at their own pace and stroll around your mind map their way, they can still do this by zooming in and out with the scroll on your mouse. You can also set the Prezi to be public and with the option to be copied by people who bump into them! So, your students could copy your Prezi mind map in their Prezi accounts and edit it to make it more suitable to their learning style, or simply add to it. Why not starting a template Prezi mind map and let the learners complete it? Then, you could share the contributions from different pupils in the class and complete your draft as a collaborative mind map created with each learner’s contributions, which is a very useful and highly effective mind mapping technique!

Click here, or on the image below to see my first Prezi Mind Map on the Kinetic Theory.

I found the iSeismo App for iPhone a few months ago thanks to an email on the PTNC (the Institute of Physics mailing list). It is a free App and also a brilliant one. I am developing resources for the WJEC Separate Science Specification (Physics 3) here at NGfL Cymru (National Grid for Learning Wales) and one of the topics is Seismic Waves, so I couldn’t resist the temptation to create an activity that would take advantage of such a great App!

iSeismo displays a seismograph for movements along the x, y and z axes using the inbuilt accelerometer in the iPhone and it is very realistic and quite accurate too. The needles look just like a real Seismographer writing on paper rolls, but with this electronic seismographer you can freeze the screen and pause it at a particular moment, as well as other interesting things.

I am giving you another sneak peek of what’s coming soon on the NGfL Cymru website. Below is the video that I created this morning to go with this activity in Wallwisher. The cool thing is that when the iPhone was at rest I received an email and the phone vibrated. The needles on iSeismo showed a vibration along the x and z axis, but not on the y-axis. So, the vibrator must be fixed onto a plane which is perpendicular to the y-axis. I bet you didn’t know that about the iPhone, did you? At least about the iPhone 3GS.

I created the Wallwisher wall as an example for teachers, but to use it with your classes you would need to register with Wallwisher and create your own wall by linking the video to the YouTube video in this blog.

As always I really value your feedback, so please leave a comment!

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.