Three Skyline College Physics instructors spent last Saturday, April 23, 2022 at the annual meeting of the Northern California-Nevada section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (NCNAAPT), which took place in Roseville, California. The NCNAAPT conference has been held twice a year since the 1950’s at various locations around the Northern California/Nevada region. This time it took place on the corporate campus of PASCO, a major US supplier of lab equipment and instructional materials for high school and collegiate physics courses.
This was the first time in just over two years that the meeting was held in person, and it was rather well attended. All the participants were overjoyed to finally have the chance once again to interact in the flesh, and the vibrant exchange of pandemic survival tips and war stories — to go along with the obligatory talk about physics teaching — added to the palpable atmosphere of camaraderie.
Skyline College contributed two wonderful presentations to the conference program, and both were very well received. One was from longtime Skyline College Physics instructor Dr. Polin Yadak, who gave an excellent description of the work she has been doing alongside Skyline College Physics Program Lead Dr. Emilie Hein (who unfortunately could not attend the NCNAAPT meeting this time due to a personal conflict) to bring the Myopenmath homework system, a free Online Educational Resource (OER), to Skyline College’s physics program.
The other Skyline College presentation was given by Lab Coordinator and Physics instructor Marco Wehrfritz, and it consisted of a lively overview of Skyline College’s innovative and wildly successful Physics lab kit project. The program was conceived by Prof. Wehrfritz and Prof. Hein as a way to make it possible for physics students to continue to have hands-on lab experiences despite being forced to take all their physics courses online due to the pandemic. It was put into practice by providing the students with inexpensive kits containing everything they need to complete their physics lab activities at home. The Skyline College physics program was able to make this happen thanks in large part to the efforts of Prof. Wehrfritz, who led the kits’ development, implementation, distribution, and support.
This NCNAAPT meeting was the first that physics instructor Dr. Kolo Wamba would attend as a full-time Skyline College physics professor, and it was an amazing experience for all involved. The three Skyline College professors who were in attendance – Prof. Wamba, Prof. Wehrfritz and Prof. Yadak – greatly appreciated the in-person professional networking opportunities and enjoyed the talks. But for each of them the true highlight of the whole experience was the keynote address by SJSU Prof. Emeritus Dr. Brian Holmes on the physics of musicmaking with brass instruments. Prof. Holmes’ presentation was a master class in how to make a difficult subject fun and engaging– at one point he even used Prof. Wehrfritz (together with a few additional volunteers) as a visual aid to demonstrate the behavior of standing acoustic waves inside a trumpet. It was truly a great time. Our physics faculty look forward to the next AAPT meeting and hope that we will be able to send an even bigger Skyline College contingent to take part.
Article by Kolo Wamba, Marco Wehrfritz and Polin Yadak