Vicphysics Teachers' Network Inc.
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The 'how and when' of introducing the maths aspects of a Physics topic is something worth exploring.  In this issue there are links to two articles on how differently physicists and mathematicians look at equations and what that means for the teaching of physics.

Vicphysics hopes to establish regular networking events to provide teachers with an opportunity to hear speakers address diverse topics across curriculum, pedagogy and the discipline itself as well as engaging in discussion and networking with colleagues over dinner.  The first of these will be on Wednesday, 9th June. Cost $35, $30 for subscribers.


The last of the VCE lectures for this term is on this Wednesday.  There are two schools seeking physics teachers.

The next meeting of the Vicphysics Teachers' Network will be on Thursday, 17th June at 5:30pm. It will be an online meeting. If you wish to participate, please contact Vicphysics.

Dr Barbara McKinnon (Pres), Sandor Kazi (Vice-Pres), Dan O'Keeffe OAM (Sec) and Deepa Jain (Treas)

Table of Contents
       1. Vicphysics Networking Event
       2. Using Math(s) in Physics: Two articles

       3. International Day of Light - Resources and a Photo Contest
       4. Lightest Uranium isotope made. Useful data for questions
       5. Seeking a Physics Teacher?, seeking a new position?
       6. Vicphysics Subscriptions
       7. Events for Students        8. Events for Teachers
  • Big Ideas in Physics: A New Scientist Online Lecture Series
       9. Physics News from the Web 
  • Sunny superpower: solar cells close in on 50% efficiency
  • The potential of far-ultraviolet light for the next pandemic
  • The fight for physics: how combat robotics on TV's BattleBots turns students on to science
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1. Vicphysics Networking Event

The Vicphysics Teachers’ Network invites physics teachers and others interested in physics education to gather in an informal setting for a series of dinners with a guest speaker. The guest speakers will address diverse topics touching on curriculum, pedagogy and the discipline itself.  Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in discussion and network with colleagues over dinner. 

The first occasion will be on Wednesday, 9th June at the Auburn Hotel at 85 Auburn Rd, Hawthorn starting at 6:00pm.

The speaker will be Dr Victoria Millar from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne.

Topic: What is the role of physics education and how does that determine the elements of a physics curriculum?

This is particularly opportune as VCAA moves into the consultation phase later this year for the study design to be implemented in 2023.

Dr Millar is a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Education and has been at the University since 2011. Prior to that she taught Physics in schools in Victoria. Her research interests are in physics and science education, particularly science participation, curriculum and interdisciplinarity.

The cost is $35 ($30 for Vicphysics subscribers) and covers a main course and drinks.

For more details and to book click here.

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2. Using Math(s) in Physics: Two articles
The two articles are written by the same author, Edwin Redish from the University of Maryland and published several years apart.  They complement each other and take different approaches.

The articles give some insights into how mathematicians and physicists can see equations differently and how that may explain some problems students have and also suggest some teaching approaches when incorporating maths into physics teaching.  The use of the word 'Math' instead of 'Maths' is grating, but the perspective is thought provoking.

i) Problem Solving and the use of 'Math' in Physics Courses. Presented in 2005, the article's sections are:

  • We use 'math' differently in physics (includes a discussion of PE Effect),
  • Physicists and mathematicians have different goals for the use of 'math',
  • Students expectations on how to use 'math' in science can cause problems,
  • What are the implications for our teaching?
ii) Using 'Math' in Physics: An overview. Published in 2020, the article's sections are:
  • 'Math' in science is different from 'math' in 'math',
  • Am I being unfair to 'math'? and Am I asking too much?,
  • Analysing how students think,
  • A 'math-in-science' toolbelt,
  • Instructional resources, 
  • Digging deeper: Research resources.

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3. International Day of Light - Resources and a Photo Contest
The International Day of Light was on 16th May. The website has an extensive compilation of resources that cover the years, Prep to Year 12.  Select 'Resources' and check out 'Activities'  and 'Videos'.  The activities section includes a link to a 165 page lab manual for teachers.

In the 'Images' section there is information about an international Photo Contest that has general public and student sections.  It is now open and closes on 16th September. Submissions from previous contests can be viewed.

  4. Lightest Uranium isotope made.  Useful data for questions.
This article in Science News describes how Uranium 214 was produced and the two decay chains it decays by.  The article and graphic includes half life values.  Uranium 216 and 218 were also produced.
5. Seeking a Physics teacher? Seeking a new position?
The Vicphysics Teachers' Network has a Job Ads page to assist schools in finding a physics teacher.

There are two schools seeking a physics teacher:
  • Beaumaris Secondary College (closes 31st May)
  • Montmorency Secondary College (closes 31st May) 
The webpage is updated every weekend.  The webpage also has a link on how schools can register a position and lodge a payment for this service. 6. Vicphysics Subscriptions
The free introductory offer has lapsed. To now access the Teachers resources section of the website a paid subscription is required. Details are at the bottom of the home page.
 
a) VCE lectures, 4:30pm, Wednesdays, University of Melbourne
This series of lectures are held on Wednesdays about once a fortnight at a new time of 4:30pm and because of COVID students need to register to attend and they can also register to access the lectures on-line.  For details of the full program check here.


i) The Biggest Explosions of the Universe, 4:30pm, Weds 26th May
Speakers: Dr Hannah Middleton and Dr Nichole Barry
Join astrophysicists, Hannah Middleton and Nichole Barry, as they discuss Black Holes colliding and the greatest explosion we have ever known, the Big Bang! Find out about the basic physics used to measure and understand these out of this world events.


Venue: Medley Theatre/online, Redmond Barry Building, University of Melbourne
To register for audience tickets or to view the lecture online, click here  Registration is required

Notes from previous lectures on topics including relativity, electricity and nuclear energy from recent years are also available at the website as well as videos of this years' lectures.


b) Girls in STEM: Empowering Curiosity - Friday, 18th June
An event for girls in Years 9 to 10:
  • An opportunity to be inspired by women who have forged impressive careers in STEAM industries.
  • Engage in hands-on activities to stimulate interest and engagement in STEAM based careers.
This event explore females in STEM careers with an emphasis on the importance of mathematics required for success. Students will hear from leading industry experts in a range of fields about their experiences working in a STEM focused career.
Experts will share their stories; the journey they took, the contributions they have made, the impact of being a female, tips for success, and how to overcome obstacles along the way.
The importance of mathematics in VCE subject selection, university degrees and in STEM careers is addressed. An interactive panel discussion follows the individual presentations.
Students will then engage in two hands-on STEM based activities that require students to be curious and creative, delivered by our supporting partners. One activity includes a hands on engineering experience run by 'Engineers without Borders'.
Please note that morning tea is provided. Teachers and students will need to BYO lunch. (Subject to change according to COVID safe plans)
Venue: Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School 
Cost: $35 /$25 per student. Max 20 students per school
To register: click here . For more information click here

c) Victorian Young Physicists' Tournament - Registrations now open
VYPT is back this year with a number of changes. For those not familiar with VYPT.  It is a competition for students in Years 10 and 11. During Terms 2 and 3, in teams of 3, the students experimentally investigate a common set of three topics, then on Sunday, 12th September in a series of one-on-one 30 minute contests with other teams, they describe their method, explain their findings, and question and challenge the presentations of others.

The topics for 2021 are:

  • Conical Piles Non-adhesive granular materials can be poured such that they form a cone-like pile. Investigate the parameters that affect the formation of the cone and the angle it makes with the ground.
  • Saxon Bowl A bowl with a hole in its base will sink when placed in water. The Saxons used this device for timing purposes. Investigate the parameters that determine the time of sinking.
  • Falling Tower: Identical discs are stacked one on top of another to form a freestanding tower. The bottom disc can be removed by applying a sudden horizontal force such that the rest of the tower will drop down onto the surface and the tower remains standing. Investigate the phenomenon and determine the conditions that allow the tower to remain standing.
These topics are engaging, accessible at different levels, don't require a lot of equipment and not restricted to the science classroom. They are an ideal challenge for keen students.

The features of the competition are:
  • it is team based,
  • focused on experimental investigations and
  • uses oral presentations.
Prizes: There is a prize for every student, with major prizes for top place getters and a trophy for the winning team.
Mentors: This year sees the involvement of university students, who will not only assist teachers on the judging panels, but will be available as mentors to the teams. Teachers will be able to request a mentor for each team when they register.
Venue: University of Melbourne
Registration: This year there is a fee: $20 per team for a Vicphysics subscriber, $40 per team for a non-subscriber.  Registrations are now open and will close on 23rd July, see links to 'Teachers' below. 
Note: One teacher for every two teams needs to be nominated, who will be a member of the judging panels on the day.
Travel Subsidy will be available for regional schools.
Live-Streaming: Vicphysics has received funding from Inspiring Victoria to enable one of the contests in each round to be streamed. The registration form includes a section on approval to be part of the live streaming.

For further details, there are four relevant webpages on the Vicphysics website:
  • For general information,
  • For teachers to register teams, along with advice on planning, including a promotional flyer and a link to the video of Physics Teachers' Conference workshop with a discussion among a panel of teachers who have participated before.
  • For students, with guide questions, hints and links to useful resources.
  • For University students, interested in being judges and mentors.
d) The Exciton Solar Cell Challenge
The special features of the Exciton Solar Cell Challenge are:
  • It is an experimental challenge for Year 7-10 students in teams of 2 - 3.
  • Students construct their own Dye Sensitised Solar Cell (DSSC) using a dye they source.
  • Kits are sent to schools and students complete the challenge with teacher support (20 free kits per school, extra kits are $20 each) and then send in evidence of experimentation.
  • This challenge is best for extension groups and STEM clubs.
  • Prizes and certificates are sent to students upon challenge completion.
  • The challenge is running through Terms 2-4 this year with a very flexible timeline.
The website has sections about key dates, information for teachers, digital copy of resources and a registration link.  The kits sent to the schools has the two more difficult to acquire materials, the rest are common science equipment and chemicals.

When you register you can request a researcher to present an introductory zoom lesson (30 mins) for the students.
8. Events for Teachers
a) Big Ideas in Physics: A New Scientist Online Lecture Series
  • How Time Works with Sean Carroll, 6pm, 3rd June. Prof Carroll is a Research Professor at CalTech.
This talk is held at 4:00am Melbourne time, however a ticket purchase gives you on demand access to the lecture and the Q&A session for 12 months.
Individual tickets are £13 (early booking rate) and there is a 25% discount on the series ticket.
9.   Physics News from the Web
Items selected from the bulletin of the Institute of Physics (UK).

a) Sunny superpower: solar cells close in on 50% efficiency
Researchers are working to improve the efficiency of multi-layer solar cells.  This article explores whether their practical benefits are more likely to be realized in space than on Earth.

For solar cells, efficiency really matters. This crucial metric determines how much energy can be harvested from rooftops and solar farms, with commercial solar panels made of silicon typically achieving an efficiency of 20%. For satellites, meanwhile, the efficiency defines the size and weight of the solar panels needed to power the spacecraft, which directly affects manufacturing and launch costs.

b) The potential of far-ultraviolet light for the next pandemic
Our ability to deal with future deadly pandemics could be better – if we look to the far-ultraviolet. This article is a call to arms for the LED industry.

 Charlie Ironside of Curtin University  is not a virologist or an epidemiologist but a physicist – one who has spent 30 years specializing in semiconductor optoelectronics. His solution: far-ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (far-UV LEDs). A narrow range of far-UV wavelengths seems to be safe for humans, while being lethal for viruses. Sterilization could become easy, routine and effective.

c) The fight for physics: how combat robotics on TV’s BattleBots turns students on to science
TV robot fights are not just entertainment – they can also help turn students on to physics and engineering,

The two 110 kg combat robots squared off. One, known as Poison Arrow, was armed with a toothed spinning drum. Its adversary, Son of Wyachi (SOW), had whirling hammers. Poison Arrow smashed into SOW, sending it flying across the arena. SOW broke its radio receiver as it crash-landed, lying motionless as the referee declared a knockout.

The action took place in 2016 in BattleBots – a US “robot-combat” TV series aired by ABC in 2015–2016, and then by the Discovery Channel since 2018. BattleBots is inspired by the original Robot Wars events held in the US in the 1990s; these events also inspired the famed British TV series Robot Wars. Dubbed “the ultimate robot-fighting competition”, BattleBots features fights to the finish between remote-controlled “bots” that employ an array of destructive weapons.

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