TAAPT 1999 Meeting

Program and Abstracts

Saturday, 10 April, 1999

Middle Tennessee State University

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

The American Association of Physics Teachers

Tennessee Section

Schedule at a Glance...

Friday, 9 April Foundation Reception House

6:00 PM Social Hour

7:00 PM Banquet Dinner

8:00 PM Speaker: James Randi

Saturday, 10 April State Farm Lecture Hall, Business/Aerospace Building (BAS)

7:00 AM Registration/Continental Breakfast

8:00 AM Welcome and Opening Remarks Montemayor/Carlton

See the following abstracts pages for more details about the talks.

8:00 AM Welcome: R. F. Carlton, Chair 12:00 PM Lunch
8:15 (1) Ron Henderson 12:15
8:30 (2) James Coakly et al. 12:30
8:45 (3) Paul Lee et al. 12:45
9:00 (4) Michael Smith 1:00 Award Ceremony: 
9:15 (5) James Cook 1:15 Joint Session 
9:30 (6) Randolph Peterson et al. 1:30 TAAPT/SPS
9:45 Business Meeting 1:45 (12) Terry King
10:00 Break 2:00 (13) Patricia Hull et al.
10:15 Social Time - Talk with 2:15 (14) James Carfi
10:30 Colleagues and Students 2:30 (15) Vic Montemayor
10:45 (7) Roy Clark 2:45 Closing Remarks
11:00 (8) Chris Maloney 3:00 Tours:
11:15 (9) Ellis Noll 3:15 Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
11:30 (10) McLaurin Smith-Williams 3:30 WPS 2nd Floor, and
11:45 (11) William Robertson 3:45 AMG 121: The New Pedagogy


TAAPT 99 Abstracts

(1) Ron Henderson, Middle Tennessee State University

Updating Electronics Courses with Design Automation Tools

Electronic design tools for both analog and digital systems have been greatly improved during the last decade. Over a similar time frame, the electronics industry has virtually converted from discrete components to custom integrated circuits and programmable devices. It is important that the methods used to educate our science majors be updated to keep pace with modern technology. Efforts to incorporate each of these design automation tools in analog and digital electronics courses will be presented.

(2) James Coakley, Cynthia Michaels and Dr. Pei Xiong-Skiba, Austin Peay State University


The complicated concepts involved in the introduction of the wave equation often surpass the understanding of a general physics student. Through the use of a computer simulation software package, such as Vernier's Interactive Physics 3.0, students are exposed to wave characteristics in a visual and interactive format. Generation of traveling and standing transverse and longitudinal waves will be shown. The effects of manipulations of each variable, within the wave equation, on the characteristics of the wave will be demonstrated.

(3) Paul Lee, Middle Tennessee State University, and Michael Sullivan, David Lipscomb University

Planck's Constant (Revisited)

What's the point of redoing the Planck's constant experiment using a variety of light emitting diodes (LEDs)? On the side of pedagogy, it seems the most direct way to proceed from the classical, continuous understanding of matter and its behavior to the discrete, quantum description. On the issue of apparatus, there are now really effective, and important, tools available ("technology in the classroom ") which includes a cheap digital camera connected directly to a computer, a 25¢ transmission grating which turns the camera into a slitless spectrometer, and free image analysis software from the National Institutes of Health. A typical set of data, as well as a parts list, will be presented. This work is a part of T-CUP, a Physics/Physical Science teacher enhancement workshop supported by NSF, THEC, MTSU and SDSU. There is a workshop starting in the summer, 1999.

(4) Michael S. Smith, Sverdrup Technology/AEDC Operations and Middle Tennessee State University

The Laboratory Shock Tube

Historically, shock tube facilities have been useful in the study of high-temperature gas dynamic phenomena because they provide a localized region of high-temperature, high-pressure gas of well-known conditions in an accessible, easily operated laboratory device. The operating characteristics of such a device will be presented along with the results of state-of-the art diagnostics including high-speed flow visualization, planar laser-induced fluorescence, and vibrational and rotational spectroscopy. Actual footage of the development of a shockwave around an aerodynamic body in a Mach 2 flowfield will be shown.

(5) James Cook, Middle Tennessee State University


For the past two years, an extra test grade has been included in the student grade averages in selected courses. This extra test grade is based on the student's class attendance. In any case, the lowest test grade is dropped from the student average. This procedure avoids penalizing bright students who do not need to attend class regularly. Results will be presented for the classes used. Grade distributions will be shown with and without counting the attendance grade. Problems include how to handle tardy students. Most students' comments were positive.

(6) Randolph S. Peterson, The University of the South, and Thomas Walkiewicz, Edinboro Univ. of Pennsylvania

Mu-meson Detection with NaI Detectors

Pulses from a NaI detector at energies higher than the background gamma radiation show structure at energies above those from any known natural gamma emitters. The peak is evidence of minimum-ionizing cosmic-ray mesons, and the peak width and centroid depend strongly upon crystal geometry. The rate of energy loss by mu mesons in NaI, coupled with their near sea-level energy distribution, produces an energy peak at about 4.5 MeV/cm of vertical detector thickness.

(7) Roy W. Clark, Middle Tennessee State University

The electret microphone: What's an electret?

Most students interested in audio have heard of electret microphones. One of them is sure to ask the teacher, "What's an electret?" This presentation is a very brief review of the history of the electret. Contrasting the electret with the magnet is an instructive way to prevent your students from thinking of the electric and magnetic fields as the same thing.

(8) Chris Maloney, Dyersburg State Community College

Jello Optics Revisited: A New Twist on a Familiar Demo

Jello's optical and other physical properties make it an ideal material for demonstrating some of the fundamentals of optics to introductory physics and physical science students. Snell's law can be demonstrated by showing the refraction of an He/Ne laser beam through water in an aquarium. The pronounced Tyndall effect in jello combined with the ability to control the medium's (jello's) refractive index both allow some interesting and attention-getting variations on this well known demonstration.

(9) Ellis D. Noll, Webb School (Knoxville)

Electrostatic Forces and Torques

In 1998 four teachers in the high school Modeling Physics program developed a computer method to measure the electrostatic force between two pith balls of like charge suspended by threads. Although deemed a success, the experiment was plagued by charge leakage which made it impossible to unambiguously establish the relationship between electrostatic force and quantity of charge on the pith balls. This prompted a search for another approach to measure electrostatic force. Ultimately, a dynamic approach was developed to measure the magnitude of electrostatic force with low tech equipment available at home. In fact, the experiment is quite suitable as a take-home lab. In this paper it will be shown how an electrostatic torque can be employed to measure an electrostatic force. The theory, which offers an excellent test of the students knowledge of rotational kinematics and dynamics, will also be presented.

(10) McLaurin Smith-Williams, Christian Brothers High School (Memphis)


Old, discarded, obsolete or non-functioning equipment (or everyday items) can serve useful pedagogical purpose. A number of practical examples and useful suggestions are offered.

(11) William Robertson, Middle Tennessee State University

Design and Fabrication of Diffractive Optic Spot Array Generators

Many inexpensive laser pointers now come equipped with a series of diffractive optic tips that convert the laser spot into a shape or a message. The task of designing such a two-dimensional mask that diffracts light into a given target pattern serves as a good undergraduate advanced lab experiment. The completed design can be tested by fabricating the mask on a laser transparency and by using a laser and simple optics to create an expanded diffraction pattern. The project brings together a number of important elements including Fourier optics and strategies for the solution of optimization problems.

(12) Terry King, Nashville State Technical Institute, and W. M. Keck Free-Electron Laser Center, Vanderbilt Univ.

AP Physics & Calculus: An Integrated High School Course for Block Scheduling

I teach a combined A P Physics and Calculus course at Hunters Lane High School in Nashville, TN. We have block scheduling; four 90-min blocks per semester. This course lasts all year. There are both advantages (integrating topics) and disadvantages (not enough time) in this approach. A discussion of the course and several examples of activities and projects will be presented.

(13) Patricia G. Hull, Tennessee State University, and Mary Quinby-Hunt, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

Artificial neural networks for predicting optical properties of a particle suspension from polarized light scattering data

Computer-simulated neural networks are described that predict from polarized light scattering data, mean particle size, standard deviation from mean size, index of refraction, and absorption of a suspension of microscopic particles in water. Polarized light scattering data in the form of Mueller matrix elements as functions of the scattering angle contain the desired information on optical properties of the particles that make up the scattering medium although traditions methods to extract the information has had limited success. Neural networks offer a different approach. Analytical calculations of the scattering matrix elements rather than experimental data were used in order to provide well-characterized training and testing sets for the neural networks. The neural networks most successful in predicting the desired parameters were fully connected, two hidden-layer, back propagation networks. A gradient descent method was used to train the networks given a set of Fourier coefficients of the Mueller matrix element, S12 or S34. All calculations were carried out on a Macintosh computer.

(14) James Carfi, Cumberland University

Detectors for high-energy particles

This work involved the design and manufacturing of a PAD chamber component for part of the PHENIX project related to the RHIC facility, located at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Long Island, NY. This component, which is an interface card with a thickness of 0.030" is used to connect to tungsten wires that are placed into the PAD chamber for detecting the characteristics of sub atomic particles. Several traces and components were used to couple the lines to a potential and to ground. The tungsten sensor wires connect to the interface card, which in turn connects to a computer to gather information about the characteristics of the particles. From the design to the manufacturing process, the interface card warranted lots of attention to many details. I will be presenting information that pertains to the design and manufacturing of this component, along with my experiences regarding communication and implementation.

(15) Vic Montemayor, Middle Tennessee State University

A New Approach to College Physics

The traditional lecture-lab set-up for the College Physics sequence is being turned upside-down and inside-out. This talk will briefly outline the main ideas of the changes taking place at MTSU. This talk is a lead-in to a tour of the College Physics Problems Lab room (AMG 121) in which the majority of the current innovations in pedagogy are taking place. The tour will take place immediately following the Closing Remarks.

1998-99 Officers

Chairman: Vic Montemayor, Middle Tennessee State University

Chairman-Elect of Tennessee: Sam Nalley, Chattanooga State Tech. Comm. College

Secretary-Treasurer: Arthur Carpenter, Austin Peay State University

Section Representative: Randolph Peterson, The University of the South