Physics Stop

Modes of a square plate

Marcus Wilson Jan 15, 2015

Alison has drawn my attention to this video. It demonstrates vibrational modes of a square plate by using sand. At certain frequencies, there are well defined modes of oscillation, in which parts of the plate 'nodal lines' are stationary. The sand will find its way to these parts and trace out some lovely pictures.  Vibrational … Read More

The changing face of professional institutions

Marcus Wilson Jan 12, 2015

I'm sure many readers will know that one of the hats I wear is the treasurer of the New Zealand Institute of Physics. NZIP is the professional organization for physicists within New Zealand. Its aim is to promote the interests of physics and physicists, at all levels, within the country. In addition to counting the beans, the … Read More

Virtual labs: Are they virtually as good as real ones?

Marcus Wilson Dec 03, 2014

I've been reading a paper by Majorie Darrah and others (full reference below) on the use of 'virtual labs' in Undergraduate Physics. At Waikato (along with lots of other universities) our first year physics students carry out laboratory sessions to help them learn physics concepts and practical skills. If you are someone who has run a first-year laboratory class, … Read More

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Archimedes principle: think carefully

Marcus Wilson Nov 14, 2014

Benjamin has recently acquired a 'new' book from Grandma and Grandad: Mr Archimedes' Bath (by Pamela Allen - here's the amazon link - the reviews are as interesting as the content). The story-line is reasonable guessable from the title. Mr Achimedes puts water into his bath, gets in, and the water overflows. What's going on? So we've … Read More

Help! There’s no equation to use

Marcus Wilson Nov 07, 2014

Today the University of Waikato is hosting a group of local secondary physics teachers. We've had an entertaining morning, with some sharing of ideas. As part of this, Rob Torrens, who teaches our large first-year engineering papers, talked a bit about life as a first-year engineering student. How does the school to university transition work? (or not.)   On … Read More

Toddler does physics-art

Marcus Wilson Oct 29, 2014

As we all know, a scientifically-minded toddler plus a piece of technology can lead to unexpected results. This is the result of Benjamin playing with a retractable steel tape measure at the weekend. How we came to break the case apart I don't know, but the results are pretty (the cellphone shot in poor light doesn't do justice to … Read More

Robot racing

Marcus Wilson Oct 22, 2014

The Engineering Design Show is currently in full swing here, with the competitions for the various design projects. The white-line followers kicked off proceedings. They were pretty impressive, with all but one team successfully being able to follow the (very squiggly) line without mistakes. There were traps to confuse the robots - the line got thinner and … Read More

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Getting the terminology correct

Marcus Wilson Oct 09, 2014

Yesterday I read a neat little report by one of our final year engineering students. As part of her final year project, she'd been looking at misconceptions in first-year students' thinking about electromagnetism. Learning about electric and magnetic fields isn't easy. For one thing, you can't actually see them. Therefore it's not at all obvious how something influences them. Read More

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Circling line-following robots

Marcus Wilson Sep 30, 2014

A few weeks ago I commented on a task our second year software-engineering students are doing: building robots to follow a white line with the Lego 'Mindstorm' kit. It's been entertaining watching their various attempts and their design selections. Most groups have pretty-well optimized their robot now, and there's some final tweaking going on, ahead of our … Read More