Physical Sciences

Electromagnetism

This was my fourth year Engineering Physics thesis: a design for an earthquake victim location transponder. At that time I had plans to travel to and work in Japan, and I thought I might be able to propose the design to a manufacturer there. While I did the first of these, the second didn’t pan out.

Mechanics

This is a program I designed from scratch on energy, forces, and motion for a year 10 class, with a focus on sustainability. As noted in the program, right from the start of the energy component of the unit, on their own initiative the students inquired about the amount of renewable energy being generated by the school’s solar panels. This led to an investigation of the school’s power bill and a class exercise to calculate what fraction of the school’s energy consumption came from its solar panels, and that from remote, conventional sources. The results were sobering as most came from conventional (i.e. fossil energy) sources. This and other activities which were grounded in the students’ lives were intended to pique their interest in this important subject.

For the energy component of the unit, the culminating assessment task was for the students to design a wind turbine which maximized the amount of power it generated. To do this they adjusted three variables: the number of blades, the size of the blades, and the angle the blades made with the wind. This is a work sample showing one group’s results.

Acoustics

The first time I had the opportunity to teach acoustics was while working at QUT several years ago (see my CV). Basically I borrowed a keyboard from the music department and used it to play different chords so that we could hear the varying degrees of consonance and dissonance as those chords’ frequency ratios increased. The only remnants of that lesson I can find are these.

More recently, I taught a mini unit on the physics of music to a home school group and developed this basic idea more fully from the basic principles of sound, extending the ideas to music specifically. You can view each of the four lessons here (123, and 4) . You’ll notice that there is some overlap in the lessons since we did not get through everything I had planned. This is most often the case. Although some of the best lessons are ones which evolve impromptu, it’s far better to have some extra resources / activities than to finish with nothing left to do.