Physics for Fun Night
Thursday, January 25, 2010
Come join us for an evening of physics
exploration and fun with Dr. Elwood Schapansky,
retired SBCC professor of physics and
Dr. Schapansky has found in his personal workshop: torches, hammers, crowbars, bicycle wheels, batteries, wires, cameras, pulleys, cans, boards, homemade tops, and gyroscopes. Be aware, there may be a few surprises! After all, this is a hand--on show in a virtual world.
All ages are welcome!
Elementary School PTA used the above announcement to invite students and
My lifetime goal has been to encourage young students to enjoy physics for pleasure and for employment. I am especially interested in getting students tactilely involved because of our dominant virtual world. I fear youngsters are missing the excitement of hands-on experimentation with scientific apparatus and are bypassing the pleasure of understanding basic physics concepts. They know how to use technology for fun and entertainment, but know nothing of how to create what they use.
Now that I am
retired from teaching, I do not have a storeroom full of apparatus to use in my
presentations, so I have discovered a very meaningful alternative. I use only
objects found in my home workshop as demonstration apparatus. This has the
useful benefit of familiarity to the audience. Children immediately recognize
the equipment and can easily relate to the concept being presented. I also work
as a commercial pilot in
I finally felt I was getting something right when I saw large banners on the athletic field advertising the program. Who could imagine Physics as a family entertainment event, being enjoyed after school was out for the day?
The Foothill School PTA placed large banners around the school perimeter to advertise the evening event.
Over a hundred parents, teachers and children attended the event and all chairs were initially filled.
After starting the presentation, children moved up to be close to the demonstrations. Because of the poor acoustics it became necessary to us a microphone and my granddaughter Paige Powell came forward to hold it for me.
By the time we were doing simple machines, with levers and pulleys, students surrounded me. It is amazing how involved they became.
Later, granddaughter Sydney Schapansky assisted with the microphone. I was gratified that both my children and my four grandchildren were in attendance.
Knowledge gives us power and safety. I emphasize that some things are very dangerous, but if we understand what we are doing, before we do it, then we can take the necessary cautionary steps. Then you can do things like cook a hotdog, skewered on bare 120 V wires. (I emphasize the great danger.)
After the show, participants were allowed on stage to play with the apparatus. What fun kids had playing with a pulley arrangement that allowed a weaker person to win a tug–of-war contest.
I have been thinking a lot about the evening. It was
not what I expected, but I got a great deal of positive feedback. I was
surprised at the number of preschoolers and younger children. My first
reaction was that this detracted from the presentation, but after mulling this
over, I realized I got what I wanted. I got parents and children in the same
room, listening to the same ideas. These were young parents, with children
The major lesson I learned was dealing with the added activity level of pre-schoolers and the room’s poor acoustics. Next time I will have a lapel mike that will allow me to have my hands free for the experiments. I loved how my grandchildren tried to assist me with the mike, but it was just too difficult. It will be better next time with an appropriate sound system. Previously this has not been an issue, but with my emphasis on family, the time has come.
I am thankful
The Foothill School Newsletter came out this morning. There were nice words about the presentation. Though a great compliment to me, more importantly it gets the educational concept out there to be explored by others.
The outline distributed for the presentation is shown below. Remember, the emphasis was on the demonstrations that go with these concepts.
Physics for Fun Night
Physics for Fun with Dr. Elwood Schapansky – Schapansky@aol.com
Foothill School MPR
February 25, 2010
I Introduction to Atoms, Air, and Air Pressure
A Air Pressure – adult supervision required
1 Creating a vacuum – boiling water and a soda can …
2 Demonstrating atmospheric pressure with water in a glass
II Newton’s Laws
A 1st: Inertia – demonstrated using inclines, coins, hammers and string
B 2nd: Acceleration – Going faster and faster - how does it happen?
C 3rd: Action/Reaction – For every force in the universe, there is an equal and opposite force.
III Machines and the concept of work
A Crow bar/lever
IV Rotational Motion
A Bicycle wheel – rotational inertia
B Spinning Tops – angular momentum and gyroscopic precession
A Static Electricity – where does it come from?
B Direct Current (DC) - Low voltage batteries
1 Short circuits
2 Open circuits
3 Simple circuits
C Alternating Current (AC) - Transformers and power transmission
1 Hot-dogs anyone?
2 Camera flash electronics