American Association of Physics Teachers Meet in Provo

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) is a community of people with the goal of “enhancing the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching.” Less than 50% of high school physics teachers have a degree in physics. Dr. Steve Turley, a physics professor at BYU and long time AAPT member, said that our region routinely prepares more physics teachers than other regions and having the chance to showcase that would be monumental. BYU is consistently in the top five schools nationwide for producing physics teachers, going so far as producing 21 graduates in the 2017-2018 school year. Monica Phish, APS Director of Education and Diversity at the time, said "We are extremely pleased that BYU prepared a record 21 physics teachers in a single year. Duane Merrell and his colleagues have an exemplary program that dovetails with BYU's enduring support for the teaching profession.” BYU professors and faculty have been members of AAPT for years and have been pushing to hold one of the AAPT meetings here in Provo to showcase our school and the teaching community here. 

In the summer of 2019 the aspiration became reality as the summer AAPT meeting was held in Provo. Almost 1100 physics professors and teachers from universities and high schools across the country came together for this AAPT meeting. One of the most important activities in this meeting is the President’s Town Hall where all attending members are invited to come up with and enact a strategic plan for what they want to focus on for the next year. At this meeting, they decided to focus on professional development for professors and teachers and retention of students in their classes and programs. As part of the AAPT meetings they hold elections for some of the important offices in the organization. One of our own faculty, Duane Merrell, was elected last year and currently serves as the vice president of the National Board of Directors of the AAPT. 

Other portions of this meeting consisted of interactive workshops, forums, and events hosted by our physics department. Our own Dr. Powers and Dr. Stokes were two of the four workshop organizer’s who helped orchestrate the 46 workshops members participated in. The workshops included things to help improve labs, reviews of new software, and how to teach digital labs. Many workshops addressed concerns with diversity among the students and teachers themselves. These included The Art of Effective Negotiation Workshop, Drying ‘White Tears:’ Interrogating Whiteness and Racism in a Multiracial Classroom, and Leadership Skills and Networking for Women Workshop. 

One of the integral methods for teaching physics is through the use of physics demonstrations that introduce important concepts in ways that the students can observe and understand. At the AAPT meeting there was a workshop that was done by PIRA (Physics Instructional Resource Association) and staff here at BYU. During this workshop they showed approximately 50 demonstrations related to electricity and magnetism. All the demos shown in the workshop came from BYU’s Physics Demonstrations Area, which provides these demonstrations for classes and outreach events. The demonstrations shown in the workshop formed a subset of the PIRA 200: 200 demos that are important demonstrations of concepts in an introductory physics course. This workshop allowed instructors to learn about what demonstrations are useful as well as how to best incorporate them into introductory physics classes.

(Student Contributors: Grace McKay, Devin Lewis, and Jarrod Hansen)

Sources: // // // // // // 

News and Events

Image for Mystery of Haumea's Formation Solved
BYU Physics and Astronomy student Benjamin Proudfoot recently published research in the prestigious journal Nature Communications that solves the mystery of the icy dwarf planet Haumea's formation.
Image for Debunking acoustics myths around the Saturn V
When the Saturn V rocket propelled man to the moon in July 1969, the blast from the rocket’s engines was tremendous. Marked by a dazzling display of flames and deafening noise, the monumental event gave rise to widespread claims that the acoustic force of the rocket melted concrete and ignited grass fires miles away. New research from BYU debunks this common myth.
Image for Dr. Aleksandr Mosenkov, new Astronomy faculty
Dr. Aleksandr Mosenkov, new faculty, looks forward to receiving some of the first data from the James Webb Space Telescope to study galaxy formation
Image for BYU Acoustics Records Artemis Launch
A group of BYU students and professors gathered acoustical recordings of at the world’s most powerful rocket launch.
Image for Kent Gee Recognized by AIAA
Kent Gee is selected as Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in their class of 2023
Image for West Mountain Observatory contributes to understand distant galaxy
BYU’s West Mountain Observatory was one of 37 ground-based telescopes throughout the world monitoring the active galaxy that is roughly 1 billion light years away.
Image for Dr. Tim Leishman retires from BYU
Dr. Leishman's time at BYU was filled with great teaching and profound mentoring
Image for Dr. John Colton: Table Tennis Champion
Dr. John Colton won the 2022 BYU intramural table tennis tournament