Southern California Section









Program for the Spring 2014 meeting


Saturday,  May3rd

Irvine Valley College
Local Host: Alec Sim


Volunteer to give a show & tell


Lunch will take place in the courtyard

RSVP for Lunch

Catering by Rubio's


     PASCO            Arbor Scientific         ifly Hollywood


What is the ratio of living tree mass in the US to lumber in US homes?

- Parking is Free!  Enter via the Irvine Center Drive, main entrance to receive your voucher.  (otherwise it is $2 at a kiosk)

Campus Map

Map Quest Driving Directions

Meeting Room Location

The Meeting will take place in the B300, physics building, in room B311.





Program Schedule




Registration and refreshments



Workshop: Jeff Phillips, Loyola Marymount, “Essential Problem Solving Skills and How to Teach Them”


As part of an NSF-funded project, we have identified essential skills common to problem solving in all STEM disciplines. While this problem-solving model shares similarities to Polya's and others' models, there are key differences such as an emphasis on self-monitoring. By monitoring their own thinking, students can identify and correct their own errors as well as select the most efficient solution pathway. In the workshop, participants will learn about the essential skills for problem-solving, discuss how to design activities to strengthen these skills, experience sample activities and learn about an opportunity to collaborate on the continued development of activities.



Welcome and Announcements


Contributed talk: Galen T. Pickett, CSU Long Beach, “Social Homework System at CSU Long Beach


I will present how we use analytics overlying a threaded discussion board in order to support learning in first - year through upper division physics courses. The system has considerable benefits to students, provides quantitative reports to faculty for formative assessment, and is workload neutral.



Contributed talk: Annabella Kraut, Tarbut V’ Torah High School, “Starting a STEM Program”

A STEM class differs from a traditional science classroom by shifting from teacher-led instruction to project-based learning.  Students gain independence, confidence, critical thinking, and practical skills by researching and solving problems in teams.  In this lecture I will discuss my experience with starting an engineering program at my school, and the successes and challenges I have faced.


Invited talk: Connie Wells, Pembroke Hill School, “Overview of the New AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 Courses


The presenter, a commissioner for the AP Physics redesign project and current co-chair of the AP Physics 2 Development Committee, provides the latest information released by the College Board about the new AP Physics courses, Physics 1 and Physics 2. Suggested approaches to the incorporation of elements of the redesigned courses into current AP Physics courses are offered as teachers make plans for their courses during the transition to the first year of implementation of the new curriculum. New teachers will discover an approach to physics teaching that merges conceptual development with scientific practice. Experienced teachers will see how their current practices merge with the goals of Physics 1 and Physics 2.


Contributed talk: Katherine Wilcox and Morgan Chong Kim, EnCorps, “Bringing STEM Experience into the Classroom: The EnCorps STEM Teachers Program


The EnCorps Teachers Program attracts, trains and helps transition experienced STEM professionals into second careers in teaching, specifically as math and science teachers. In this presentation, we will describe the mission and work of the EnCorps Teachers Program and describe our pre-service program of support, early teaching experiences, professional development training designed for career changers and mentoring and coaching.



Invited Talk: Daniel S. Helman, Prescott College, "Capturing Lightning for Energy and Material Uses" 

Lightning phenomena generate plasma, heat and electricity that may be used for energy or material fabrication. For example, some work has been done to characterize the explosive effect of plasma arcs into water. Other researchers have studied ball lightning with the idea to use ambient-pressure plasma for fusion reactors. Still others have been successful at using plasma arcs for vitrifying asbestos-laden waste and rendering it inert. The field is ripe for progress, and the talk will provide an overview of current research to highlight some possibilities.


Business Meeting





Show and Tell 


Invited talk:Bian Woods, Wallis Annenberg HS,  "Thirty-three Years at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station"

In this talk I outline the basics of nuclear power, specifically at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and discuss the details of being a Nuclear Technician: safety, engineering, training, salary, licensing, etc.  As SONGS is now being decommissioned I can reflect on its history and safety from an insider's perspective.


 Contributed talk: Marilyn Garza and Jesse Kasehagen, Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara Middle School, “Using Lessons from University Research to Guide Middle School Science Students”

Through a Research Experience for Teachers program funded by the NASA Summer of Innovation, we joined UCSB Professor Lubin’s Deep Space Cosmology group for 4 weeks. In that time we learned about his various projects and focused on the DE-STAR (Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroid and exploration) project. Our immersion into this post graduate research culture was inspiring and led us to think about how we could better prepare our middle school students for such an environment. We focused on the following aspects: 1) setting up a controlled experiment, 2) creating regular progress checks and 3) facilitating communication with other scientific groups to help achieve our goal. We will present the lessons that we created to reflect our summer experience. One lesson involved having students build a laser from scratch using the Instructables website. The goal of the project was to have students build, troubleshoot and test a working laser. The second lesson offers a very simple model of the asteroid project and has the students design an investigation to explore some of the variables involved. These lessons involve the basic elements of critical thinking and scientific investiation that teach our students that patience and perseverance will prevail.





Contributed talk: Bradley “Peanut” McCoy, Azusa Pacific University, “Modelling and Incentivizing Qualitative Thinking”


Novice problem solvers often approach solving physics problems as a primarily, perhaps even solely, an exercise formal manipulation of equations. In contrast, experts appreciate that physics equations have conceptual content. Experts use qualitative thinking to guide and evaluate their quantitative work. In this talk, I will describe some techniques for modelling for students how to include qualitative thinking in their solutions of physics problems. Ways to incentive students to think qualitatively will also be discussed.



Contributed talk: Heather Doyle, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, “Pier Physics”


STEAM: Adventures in Education at the Santa Monica Pier. Based on our very successful STEAM Machines event featuring a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, the Pier has extended learning opportunities by highlighting a 40+ lesson curriculum packet as well as a self-guided STEM Pier Scavenger hunt. You'll learn more about these experiential learning resources from the Educational Curator of the Pier and Director of the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.



Invited talk: Giovanni Zocchi, UCLA, “BioPhysics and the Molecules of Life”.


Living matter, at the molecular scale, is different from usual matter. Biological molecules, specifically enzymes, deform without breaking, couple chemical reactions to directed motion, and in general perform tasks. Nature’s molecular machines are not scaled down versions of macroscopic machines: molecular motors have nothing to do with Carnot cycles, and molecular pumps have nothing to do with hydrodynamics. So how do these molecules work? I will describe new attempts at extracting universal mechanical properties of enzymes, where one surprising conclusion is that the molecules we are made of behave dynamically like “silly putty”. Another universal conclusion is that any enzyme can be controlled mechanically, opening mechanical control for thousands of chemical reactions.



Contributed talk: Phil Gash, CSU Chico, “The Other Vibrational Mode of a Slinky”

Along the way to determine the vibration frequency of a free Slinky, a second vibration mode of a Slinky was discovered. This mode will be demonstrated and the physical reasons why the mode is rarely seen will be discussed. To stress the physical reasons for the second mode and show it is not dependent upon a specific Slinky, the second
mode will be demonstrated with a larger plastic Slinky.


Contributed talk: James Lincoln, Tarbut V’ Torah High School, “New Demos & Experiments with iPhone Slow Motion”


We have seen for many years the iPhone being a useful tool in the Physics Classroom. But now, there is a new feature that is ready to make big changes. The slow motion feature on the iPhone 5s provides a convenient enhancement for many physics demonstrations, both old and new, and in some cases it enables experiments that were previously impossible. In this talk I highlight 15 of these and provide tips for successful slow motion videos.




Contributed talk: George Kuck, Retired CSULB, “Homeschooling: An Underserved Community”


For the past school year I have been teaching two home school groups. This is a community that has very little visibility within the physics community. It is an untapped resource for STEM college students. This talk covers my experiences. One group is very structured while the second is relatively unstructured. The major shortcoming of the course is that demonstration equipment is not available and so I must rely upon internet demonstrations – kudo’s to James Lincoln. If you really like students and teaching, this is a very interesting, low paying option in retirement from public school teaching.


Order of Magnitude contest and door prizes
   4:10 Adjournment



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