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VIP Newsletter Title GraphicWinter edition '99

VIP's mission is to foster communication among teachers of physics and physical science as well as to provide unique learning experiences for teachers and their students.

Next Meeting March 27 at UVA's Physics Building


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A note from the President
Hi. Last year at the spring meeting of VIP, we held our annual elections. Tony Wayne, who has served as our president for several years had chosen to step down and I was elected to the position. I was vice president under Tony for the last few years so that position also came open. Thomas O'Neal was elected to to serve you in that capacity.
I thought it may be useful to introduce myself to those who don't know me and describe my background. I have been a member of VIP since its very earliest days. This is my twelfth year of teaching. I taught my first six years at Fauquier High School in Warrenton , and then moved to my present position at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg. I have a B.S. in Physics from James Madison University. Since receiving my degree I have continued to learn a great deal. I have learned some from classes, much from my students and a great deal from other dedicated professionals who are willing to share a few of the gems from their personal bag of tricks. It is this sharing attitude that has brought me back time and again to the VIP meetings. I would like to publicly thank Tony for his years of leadership to VIP and for the dozens of great ideas he has given away to all of us.
Tony and a few individuals have carried VIP as far as contributions to share are concerned. It is my goal to encourage a wider base of contributors. VIP charges no dues. Its expenses are covered by UVA (and JMU during some years in the past.) What I ask of you is to dig into your archives and share your best. It does not have to be an original idea. If you know a book, a piece of equipment or an experiment that works just right, bring it along to share. VIP can only be as good as the members who bring ideas to share. In the past it has been great. It can get even better. At our spring meeting bring an idea to share and a teacher from your area who might enjoy the meeting. See you on March 27.

Sincerely ,
Andy Jackson

All of the labs and ideas in this newsletter were contributed by me, Andy Jackson. I hope this will not be the case in the future. For VIP to continue, we need many members to share their ideas. Please send me your contributions to the next newsletter. You may e-mail me at or

You can send them to me by mail at:

Andy Jackson
Harrisonburg High School
395 South High Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801-1956

It is especially true in the case of VIP that "all of us are better than any one of us".

On the next three pages I have included a project and a lab that I use during the first grading period. The project is one I read in The Physics Teacher about ten years ago and I don't know the name of the person to give credit to. I created the application and came up with the list of physicists. If you come up with other interesting physicists that you think I should add to the list, I would love to hear from you.
The lab has the students use a sonic range finder, a TI-83, CBL and their bodies to make graphs. It generates a lot of excitement and really has the students explore their knowledge of motion. Some of these drawn shapes are easy to match and some you have to be quite lenient with. The acceleration graphs that can be generated using the sonic range finder are very rough and so a generally correct shape is usually all you can look for.

Hall of Fame Project

Each student picks a number between 1 and 33 and is given the name of his/her physicist. The student is then given the application. The assignment is to research the physicist well enough to accurately complete the application. At the end of the grading period I interview each "physicist" for about 5 minutes. The student is to portray his/her physicist as authentically as possible. This project has been a favorite of mine for many years. It is great to here kids five and six months later proclaim during a lecture "hey, he was my physicist!" It has also been a big hit with two different administrators during observations.

  1. Nikola Tesla
  2. Tycho Brahe
  3. Marie Curie
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Stephen Hawking
  6. Richard Feynman
  7. Albert Michelson
  8. Robert Goddard
  9. Isaac Newton
  10. Edward Teller
  11. Edwin Hubble
  12. Johannes Kepler
  13. Robert Millikan
  14. Werner Heisenberg
  15. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin
  16. Thomas Young
  17. Galileo Galili
  18. Chien Shiung Wu
  19. Ernest Rutherford
  20. Wolfgang Pauli
  21. Thomas Edison
  22. Luigi Galvani
  23. Alessandro Volta
  24. Nicholaus Copernicus
  25. Charles Coulomb
  26. Michael Faraday
  27. Joseph Henry
  28. Murray Gell-Mann
  29. Robert Hooke
  30. Christian Huygens
  31. Erwin Schrodinger
  32. James Clerk Maxwell
  33. Heinrich Hertz
  34. J. Robert Oppenheimer
  35. Benjamin Thompson

Click here to download the "Hall of Fame Physicist Membership Application" in ClarisWorks 4.0/AppleWorks 4.0.

Click here to download the Hall of Fame Physicist Membership Application in acrobat reader format (".pdf).


Click here to view the application in your web browser.

Sonic Ranger Activity

Use the TI-83, CBL and ultrasonic range finder to make motion that matches the shapes of the following graphs. NUMBER A PAPER FROM 1-15 AND GET ME TO CHECK OF EACH ONE AS YOU GET IT.

Graphic 1 of 3 of the Questions

Graphic 2 of 3 of the Questions


Graphic 3 of 3 of the Questions

Now sketch a D Vs T , V vs T, and an A vs T graph for each of the following; 1,4,7,10,13 and 15.

A Note to teachers

I hope you enjoy this one. I have had department members report to me how excited some students were about this lab. They continued talking about it, asking each other questions about "how did you get . . ." and "Could you get the one that went ...?" When I hear comments like that, I know I've got a keeper.

Acoustical Study of an Auditorium

Graphic of the auditorium. (You must have this graphic to complete the worksheet.)




To the left is a scale picture of a high school auditorium. You'll notice that the ceiling is shaped rather oddly.

1- Draw the path that sound travels in the
auditorium as it leaves the speaker's mouth
on stage and reflects off of the ceiling at the
numbered points. Areas that are crosshatched
absorb sound.

2- Explain why the ceiling is shaped this way.










3- Explain why the back wall of the auditorium
is designed to absorb sound.





4- Which ceiling sections should also be designed
to absorb sound to help deaden the sound
from the audience?

A note to the teacher
This work sheet can be solved with a ruler, a protractor, and knowledge of the law of reflection. Students seem to like this low tech application.




Sail boat

"I find the greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: ...we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it- but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)


Sailing is probably one of the most enjoyable vector problems you can do. Since my yacht is undergoing repairs, we'll sail in the class room.

PROCEDURE- Create a sailing ship with styrofoam, paper, dowel rods, string, a plastic ruler and tape. You may wish to consult How things Work to see how real ships are designed.

GOAL 1- Make your "ship" sail with the wind. Try to arrange the sail so the "ship " goes as fast as possible.

Goal 2- Arrange your sail so your "ship" will sail at right angles to the wind.

GOAL 3- Arrange your sail so your "ship" will go upwind.
Now read appendix D of Conceptual Physics


  1. Describe how a ship can meet each of the four goals. Use force diagrams (like in Conceptual Physics) to aide your explanation.
  2. Is it possible for two ships to go in exactly opposite directions using the same wind? How?
  3. In which of these three situations would a ship be able to reach the highest speed? Explain your answer.
  4. If a ship was at rest with its sails down, in which of these three situations would it be able to have the greatest acceleration upon raising its sails? Why?

A note to the teacher - This lab is messy and time consuming. It's also not the fastest way to get these ideas across, but you've got to see the excitement when kids see their boat sailing into the wind. The equipment you need for this is as follows.

  1. A large container for water. I use some stream tables from earth science. They are about 1 m x 30 cm x 5 cm.
  2. A source of wind. I use some old hair dryers on low power.
  3. Sheets of styrofoam insulation. 8
  4. Scalpels or other tools for cutting the styrofoam.
  5. Materials for masts and booms. I use thin dowel rods cut to about 20 cm lengths.
  6. Materials for keels. Most of my students don't initially see the need for a keel. (note: We live in the mountains, sailing is not something many of my students have a lot of experience with.) I allow them to discover the need. I supply 6 inch Cenco flexible rulers for this use.
  7. String, tape and paper are used to construct the sail

  • This is a good collection of general science links.It makes a good starting point for lots of fun stuff.

  • This has loads of astronomy links.

  • A large collection of science links

  • Our very own web site! Bookmark this for VIP info. (Home of the free book, Roller Coaster Physics.)

  • My current favorite! This site gives you exact coordinates and times for you and your students to see satellites, sometimes in broad day light. I'm still trying to figure out how to make a good lab or two out of this. Currently this URL is for Harrisonburg's location but you will be able to edit it to suit yourself.


9:00 - 9:30


9:30 - 10:30

VIP Business, Election of officers, Future directions of VIP, Affiliation with VAST, ?. .

10:30 - 11:30

General demonstrations and lesson plans to share

12:00 - 1:30

Lunch (You are on your own).

1:30 - 3:30

Lab share: What are you and your students doing with graphing calculators?

There is no fee and there are no dues, just come and enjoy!

Please bring an idea, lesson plan, demo or experiment to share (~50 copies). Also, consider bringing another teacher who might benefit.

Click here for location directions and a map.

Have a piece of equipment you don't know how to use (or what it is)? BRING IT !!! See if you can stump the experts (who ever they are) or get some help. I personally will bring 1 of 12 beautifully made . . .?

Feeling Stressed?

This list of causes of stress in the workplace was in an article printed in the winter edition of HealthQuest, a publication produced by Rockingham Memorial Hospital. The author is Larissa Ivanitch.

Lifestyle and Job Stress

  • Too much or too little work
  • Having to perform beyond your experience or perceived abilities
  • Having to overcome unnecessary obstacles
  • Time pressures and deadlines
  • Keeping up with new developments
  • Changes in procedures or polices
  • Lack of relevant information, support and advice
  • Lack of clear objectives
  • Unclear expectations of your role from your boss or colleagues
  • Responsibility for people, budgets, or equipment
  • Career development stress
  • Stress from your organization or clients (demands from clients, disruptions to work plans, pressures from your boss)
  • Personal or family stresses (financial problems, health, relationships)

It seems to me that according to this article I should be feeling stressed. The article also contains tips on how to manage stress. I have found in the past that a Saturday spent with fellow teachers at VIP meetings is a great stress relief, social event, and learning experience all rolled into one. Come join us.

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