Meeting of the Idaho-Utah Section American Association of Physics Teachers Rexburg, Idaho, March 9-10, 2012

The Idaho-Utah Section of the AAPT held its annual meeting, March 9-10, 2012, at Brigham Young University – Idaho, Rexburg, Idaho. Brian Pyper, section president elect, organized the meeting. Many thanks to Brian for a very successful event! This meeting was held jointly with the zone SPS meeting.

There were 58 attendees (those who paid the registration fee). These included 34 students, 3 high-school teachers, and 21 college and university faculty and staff.

Friday evening, following dinner, we gathered for an invited talk by Steven Wasserbaech (UVU/CERN), followed by a physics demonstration show.

On Saturday, we heard 16 oral presentations given in two sessions.

During the lunch hour, 4 poster presentations were on display.

Business Meeting

We conducted our business meeting following lunch

We held elections of section officers. The officers of our section are now constituted as follows:

  • President: Brian Pyper, Brigham Young University – Idaho (former president elect, automatically succeeded our former president, Farhang Amiri.)
  • President-Elect: Phil Matheson, Utah Valley University (former Vice President. He will organize our annual section meeting in 2012.)
  • Vice President: We did not elect a vice president but voted to hold our meeting at Boise State University next year and to allow the AAPT members there to decide who will be vice-president. (No one from Boise State University attended our meeting this year.)
  • Treasurer: Adam Beehler, University of Utah (re-elected)
  • Section Representive: Brian Pyper, Brigham Young University – Idaho (elected for a three-year term)


7pm Steven Wasserbaech
8pm Demo Show Harold Stokes Pulley
Wayne Peterson Does a Holey Boat Sink?
Spencer Perry Gatling Vortex Cannon
Adam Beehler Table Top Snowflake
Ron Galli Music Torque and Cats
James Coburn A Mechanics Medley
Duane Merrell The Music Box Speaker, and fishing swivel wave demonstration.
Ryan Nielsen – Tuning forks and Pipes: Making it meaningful to musicians
Rondo Jeffery Jumping Rings
Steve Shropshire More Jumping Rings
Brian Pyper Speed and sound in a helium-filled bugle, Ron Galli Commemorative Alphorn song, Magnetic eddy-current levitation, Tesla Coil


welcome Steve Turcotte and Brian Pyper


Kent Gee and Tracianne Neilsen ‘Sound’ physics? A discussion of acoustics in Utah’s sixth grade science curriculum As part of Utah’s science core curriculum, sixth grade students are to learn about heat, light, and sound. Of the specific objectives listed for all three topics, the points related to investigating sound appear to be the most lacking and disconnected from the objectives found within the understandably more advanced Physics Core. Shortcomings of the current objectives and possible modifications that could help build a better foundation of physics concepts for students are described.


Tim Wendler Accurate Scientific Visualization in Research and Physics Teaching Accurate visualization is key in the expression and comprehension of physical principles. Many 3D animation software packages come with built-in numerical methods for a variety of fundamental classical systems. Scripting languages give access to low-level computational functionality, thereby revealing a virtual physics laboratory for teaching and research. Specific examples will be presented: Galilean relativistic hair, energy conservation in complex systems, scattering from a central force, and energy transfer in bi-molecular reactions.


Harold Stokes Lecture Clips Using Camtasia Studio software installed on a Lenovo Thinkpad tablet, I have made a large number of short videos of material discussed in class.


Jean-Francois Van Huele Pseudoscience and AAPT The recent National AAPT 2012 Winter Meeting in Ontario, CA featured several well-attended sessions on pseudoscience. I will report on what I learned from attending some of the talks. I will also relate how the learning experience may have been even better than the conference organizers intended.


Spencer Perry Gatling Vortex Cannon Generating vortex rings by means of acoustical and mechanical energy. Vortex rings are an application of fluid dynamics, but they can be used to teach acoustics, Newton’s Laws, viscosity, pressure, and torque. The presentation will discuss our motivations for design and construction of the vortex cannon demos, what we learned about the relationships between parameters, and alternative methods of producing similar results. I will also discuss possible classroom applications and other possible applications outside the classroom.


Dallin S Durfee A Classically Intuitive Spin on Quantum Angular Momentum I will discuss a way to connect the x, y, and z basis sets for the spin 1/2 system using a classical understanding of angular momentum. This method should help students to develop greater intuition for the quantum description of angular momentum, and highlights the connections between classical coordinate space and the Hilbert space used to describe quantum mechanical spin states.


Tracianne Neilsen Preliminary results of pre-class learning activities It is significantly easier to create an effective learning experience during class if the students come prepared. In reality, this rarely happens because the students are busy with other things; thus it is necessary to require a graded assignment on the new material that is due prior to class as motivation. In an attempt to approach the Just-in-time Teaching methodology, pre-class learning activities (LA) have been implemented in the Descriptive Acoustics course to provide the students with meaningful engagement with the concepts before class. An LA consists of a hands-on interaction either with a simulation/applet on their computer or a small experiment. The students are required to submit one paragraph describing their experience and observations. Feedback from the students at the end of the first semester indicates that they generally enjoyed the learning activities and found them helpful.


Dennis Pedersen Can Scientific Reasoning Ability and Epistemological Beliefs Limit Success in Introductory Physics? Research in Physics Education is shedding new light on the relationship between scientific reasoning ability, epistemological beliefs, and conceptual change in Introductory Physics. This talk will present data acquired from the Physics 123 course at BYU-Idaho in an ongoing effort to improve conceptual understanding among introductory Physics and Physical Science students.


Diana Cole Physics Education Research The students in several of the mechanics/kinematics classes at the school were given an exam at the beginning of the semester. This exam tested their attitudes about science, their basic science knowledge, and their conceptual understanding of kinematics. I analyzed the results of this test and discovered a few interesting trends in the results, including a difference between male and female test scores as well as a correlation between the scores of the three parts of the test.


Adam Roll Physics Education Research II Physics is generally considered to be a difficult subject to truly understand. Our group is investigating how students best learn so that teachers can help students to understand physics better. With the data from a class of Physics 220-Electromagnetism students I am trying to find any statistically meaningful correlations between students’ backgrounds, their pre-course attitudes about science, their reasoning ability, and their conceptual understanding. these data will eventually be compared with post-course data for the same students and as well as data from other courses.


J. Ronald Galli and Farhang Amiri PHOTON MOMENTUM AND PRINCIPLES OF REFRACTION THROUGH A UNIFORMLY MOVING MEDIUM The bending of light as it passes from one medium to another and undergoes a speed change is well established. Not so well established or understood is the change in photon momentum and the role that momentum plays in the refraction process. In particular, it is uncertain whether the momentum of a photon increases (P=nPo) or decreases ( P=Po/n) as a photon of momentum Po passes from a vacuum to a medium of refraction index n. This paper proposes that P=nPo and that the momentum change vector is perpendicular to the surface. We show that these two mutually inclusive assumptions can be used to get the relationships between the angles of incidence and refraction for all speeds of the moving medium.


AAPT: ROM277 SPS: Lunch in ROM277, posters in front upstairs lobby
13:00 David Kardelis Conservation of Angular Momentum I will present a way to use digital/webcams to demonstrate conservation of angular momentum. The technique allows for both elastic and inelastic collisions. Most classrooms probably have the materials at hand to run the experiment.
13:15 Rondo Jeffery Jumping Ring Movie Key features of this ever-popular physics demonstration will be presented which show that it is much more than a simple application of Lens’ Law. High-speed movies of the jump confirm theoretical predictions based on understanding the magnetic field in and around the extended iron core and the phase-shifted ring current.
13:30 Steve Shropshire Impact of Outreach on Physics Enrollment at ISU Idaho State University Physics Outreach has many aspects, from workshops for teachers, demonstration presentations for schools and community groups, Science Olympics, science festivals, and a Haunted Science Lab. A brief overview of these programs will be provided, enrollment and Graduation data will be presented, and the impact outreach has had on enrollment will be discussed.
13:45 Todd Lines Light, Sound, & Perception: A Physicist teaching Biology and Psychology BYU-I, as an institution, has undertaken a major effort to revitalize our GE program. Our team was given the charge to make a GE science class where the content was relevant to incoming freshmen. The design was to be a “vertical slice” through science rather than a general survey, explaining one science topic deeply rather than giving a shallow overview of science. The hope was that we would teach many things, but have a purpose that would drive interest governed by the major goal, aiding retention. Our class seeks to explain how video presentations motivate behavior (movies, commercials, etc.). Our goal is to teach the physics, biology, and psychology of light and sound. This talk is a short report of the charge we were given, how we are executing it, and a preliminary report of our results.
14:00 Brian Pyper Changing Reasoning Ability in College Students Reporting on continuing efforts to improve conceptual understanding in introductory physics courses by paying explicit attention to improving students’’ reasoning ability.



Planetarium show

SPS Lunchtime posters

12 noon Claire Chow Biophysics Research: Investigating the Mechanisms of the Rho Helicase The termination of RNA transcription is a well-known phenomenon in the scientific community. While the exact mechanism behind transcription termination differs between prokaryotes and eukaryotes, in prokaryotes termination is often dependent on the actions of Rho. Rho is an ATP dependent helicase that acts to release the RNA from the rest of the transcription machinery upon completing of transcription. Even though it is broadly understood, the exact role Rho protein plays, during transcription, as well as its energy requirements have yet to be elucidated.This study attempts to better establish the energy requirement for Rho during transcription termination. The Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) was used, which allowed us to better visualize the protein-nucleic acid interaction and molecular movement as a whole. During this study, Rho was analyzed under various concentrations of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Results indicate that approximately 1mM of ATP is optimal to propel Rho along the RNA strand. However, adding a higher concentration of ATP did not increase Rho’s rate at which it moved along the RNA molecule. These finding not only gives insight into Rho’s minimal energy requirement but contributes to further understanding gene expression and regulation.
Zephne Vaterlaus BYU Success Stories BYU’s SPS president presents a few of their successful activities including paper drag racers and origami hang gliders! Come learn and share a few ideas for SPS activities for your department!
Dayton Syme TBA
Jason Stock Spatial Resolution of Large Scintilating Plastic Detectors This project looks into the feasibility of obtaining spatial resolution from a single large scintilator. With our data, we prove that resolution is possible, and that further research is warranted into the construction of a large angular corelation detector.


Online Preregistration here: .


Contributed talks will be allowed 15 minutes (combined talks and questions). Posters are 1 hour (Sat noon). Brian Pyper will chair the oral sessions.


Campus parking lots are free after 4pm weekdays, and all day Saturdays. Campus maps are available online at .


There are now four hotels in Rexburg. There’s a Springhill Suites and an AmericInn by the south interchange, and a Days Inn by the Main street exit on at the intersection of Hwy20 and Hwy33, and a Super 8 on the corner of 2nd West and Main Street. The Super 8 is walking distance to campus, the others aren’t.

The AmericInn is offering us a rate of $65.90. Use reservation code UTAHID0312.

The Springhill Suites is offering us a rate of $72 using reservation code AAPT.

Both these sets of rooms (about 15 rooms at each hotel) will be released Wednesday the 7th of March.

We weren’t able to negotiate anything with the others. They may have better rates.

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