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Physics Demo Day charges up the crowd

Ron Bar-Zion, Staff Writer

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Physics Demo Day, held on the second Thursday of every month, gives students and teachers an opportunity to network and share ideas in a profession where there is usually just one physics teacher per high school.

The most recent Demo Day on Thursday allowed current and prospective teachers and Cal State Long Beach physics students to watch demonstrations that could help them improve their lesson plans for thermo and nuclear physics.

A grant provided by the American Physical Society funded the event.

Chuhee Kwon, chair of the physics department at CSULB, said events such as Demo Day are important to encourage physics students to take on teaching positions and to give current physics teachers more knowledge of the subject for their lessons.

“We want [physics] teachers who are very passionate and have the knowledge of the subject to teach the class,” Kwon said.

Katie Beck, a physics teacher from Bolsa Grande High school, conducted one of the demonstrations. For her demonstration, Beck created a basic engine by using a flask, water, two bent metal tubes and a gas-powered torch.

Beck poured water in the flask and suspended the flask with a metal chain. The top of the flask was sealed with a rubber stopper. The two tubes were pushed through the rubber stopper and turned to face out in opposite directions, forming an L-shape, coming out the top of the flask in either direction.

Beck used the torch to heat up the water in the flask, turning it into steam.

The steam came out of the metal tubes and caused the flask to spin. Beck explained that this type of engine is called a “Hero’s Engine” and was invented in Alexandria.

“It’s the most basic engine that we have,” Beck said.

Beck used this demonstration to discuss some principles of physics, like action and reaction. When energy is put into the device (the flame produced by the torch), the steam expelled creates energy output (caused by the spinning motion of the flask).

Sophomore physics major and vice president of the Society of Physics Students at CSULB Stephanie Sodergren came to physics demo days to learn more about experiments she can do, if she becomes a physics teacher.

“I think the teachers are great and I wish I could have seen some of this stuff in my high school class,” Soder said. 

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